Peace Time: December 10, 2004

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For the U.S. military, theres a war going on. But its not a total war, with the entire nation mobilized. The hard and dangerous work is being done a million people who volunteered for military service, and have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan so far. That's about one out of every three hundred Americans. While the rest of the country goes about life as if there were no war, the families of those sent into combat zone must cope. This is a big change from the normal peacetime routine, where the military was largely successful in seeing that troops spent only about one year in four or five on a hardship tour (without their family.) But now, about a quarter of those who have gone to a combat zone are their for their second time. Casualties have been low, with only about one percent casualties (dead or wounded). But separation from family puts more pressure on the troops (from spouses, kids and other kin) to get out of the service, or not join in the first place. So far, this has only been seen in the National Guard, a reserve force that has long depended on recruiting people who have just completed their active service. Patriotism, and larger signing bonuses for particularly sought after recruits, has kept the new troops coming. And existing reenlistments have remained at their usual levels. But in the long term, no one is sure what will happen. The last time something like this happened (a foreign war, with no conscription, fought by regulars and reservists), was over a century ago in the Philippines. That one was eventually very unpopular, and went on for over four years. The U.S. forces won that one, and will probably win this one. But getting there is going to be hard for the families of the troops doing the fighting.

 


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