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Less than one percent of the entire country serves in the military at any given time nowadays, which is perfectly fine from a national security perspective, according to experts on the matter, but that situation becomes problematic on other fronts once we consider how it might affect our democracy, civilian engagement with foreign policy, or the very social contract that holds us all together.
Asking so few to carry a burden so large, one that we’ve all benefited from regardless of our personal politics, is not a deal that comes without consequences. What happens during war time doesn’t end when the war ends, if the wars of our time ever end anymore. It doesn’t end when a service member comes home either, in fact coming home is often more dangerous for a lot of people than being deployed.
The transition back to the civilian world has always been a lonely one, but coming home to a place where most civilians have no idea what service members have done, and have some major misconceptions about it, makes it more so. And while not all of our veterans need help, some do.
The 22 veteran suicides that happen every day on average demonstrates that fact, a number that far outpaces the rate of casualties that have resulted from combat or accidents in the line of duty. And until all of us have some idea about who our military is and what their lives are like, we won’t know how to stop it.
So we started this program to ask questions, hear stories, and learn. Because that’s what we know how to do.
But we’re not just listening and asking questions because it’s ethically imperative; we’re listening because what they have to say is compelling, and artfully rendered, funny, poignant, surprising, and all the other things you want from good storytelling.
Some of the voices you’ll be hearing from are studied writers who want to do this for a living, and others are fascinating individuals we’ve met along the way who have a great tale to tell that we wanted to share with you. But one thing holds true for all of them and it is this: the men and women you’re going to meet are artists. Full stop. Who are also veterans. So we regarded them as such.
On behalf of all our contributors, past, present, and future, thank you for making this possible and for being our audience. The reader completes the writer, and it’s an enormous privilege to have this forum where we can all sit down and talk together at last.