Norwich University held its 190th commencement ceremony Sunday. As the nation's oldest private military college, it's an important source of the nation's military leadership. But the graduation speaker said the military is under stress for reasons not directly connected to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not all of Norwich University's graduates enter the military. But with the nation embroiled in two wars, those who have been commissioned as officers in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force can expect to encounter a sense of estrangement among some of the older, experienced military people -- especially the ones who have served multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The commencement speaker, Martha Raddatz of ABC News, said, "Indeed, they have a lot of experience, but more and more they feel that the burden is theirs and theirs alone. The families feel the same."
Raddatz has traveled to both war zones. She recently returned from her twentieth trip to Iraq. She warned the newly-commissioned officers of a kind of disconnect between the military and civilian society that did not exist in older times. "The fact that the military represents less than one percent of the population almost makes it seem distinct from the rest of society," she said, "as does the decline of military experience in the professional class, journalists included, and among those who hold public office."
The message rang a bell with the military graduates. Kayla Morgan, a newly commissioned Navy ensign, told Channel 3, "I completely understand what she was saying, and I think how she was saying how to bridge the gap and everything is a good idea."
Calvin Farrell, an Army lieutenant, said, "I never have really personally kind of felt that, but I know it does exist from other people I've spoken to."
Charles Coolidge, an Army lieutenant, said, "I would say that there is somewhat of a disconnect occasionally between the perception of what the government does, especially government forces in uniform, those tasked with security and the security of the nation."
Raddatz said she has tried in her reporting to bridge the gap. many of the Norwich University graduates will report for duty, as representatives of the United States. But they won't necessarily be understood by the rest of American society.
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