Why does our military get such a bum rap in the news where all we read about are homeless veterans, veteran suicides and how much our veterans' hospitals have let us down? Our military is the most professional organization on earth and we do not give them credit for how good they really are in keeping all of us safe.
Our military is made up of all volunteers, but that was not always the case. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, General George Washington requested the central government be given the power to conscript soldiers for the Revolutionary War, which was a power previously reserved for the individual colonies. Despite the clear need for troops, the Continental Congress turned down Washington's request. During the Civil War, President Lincoln imposed a draft which provoked riots in New York and many other cities. Our first peacetime draft took place in September 1940 and this draft supplied two-thirds of the Americans who fought in WWll. The draft lapsed in 1947, but was reinstated 15 months later for the Cold War. The draft became a casualty of its own unpopularity during the Vietnam War where draftees made up only 25% of the U.S. military, but accounted for more than half of the Army's battle deaths. In 1973 the draft law expired when Congress refused to extend it.
Last month I had the privilege of spending a day with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command based out of Fort Knox, Kentucky while attending the Kiwanis Summit. I talked with recruiters from all over the country and was totally impressed with their professionalism, commitment to their cause and their personalities. Any one of these soldiers could become a leader in the business world. Currently there are 490,000 active army soldiers (327,862 active Navy, 307,326 active Air Force and 184,829 Marines). Like I learned in my visit, according to Business Insider, our military force is smart with fewer than 1% not having a high school diploma, while 43% of active duty officers have a bachelor's degree and 39% of officers have advanced degrees. The military is quite family oriented with 42% not married yet, while 44% have children. And the military is very employable in the private sector, according to USA Today. The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 4.6% in October, lower than the national average of 5%, proving that the skills learned in the military do translate back into civilian life and reinforces how focused and smart our professional military personnel are in today's world. This is the lowest unemployment rate for this brave group since October in 2007, two months before the recession began. This is a first class operation for our first class country.
Congress finally came to its senses when they passed the $607 Billion Defense Policy Bill last month. It raises the Pentagon's base budget by 7.7%, which offsets the sequestration that was put in place in 2011. This will allow for a 1.3% pay increase for service members and the setting up of a new retirement plan option for troops, similar to a 401 (k) style retirement, according to Politico. What is fascinating about this whole process is the bill passed the Senate 91 in favor and only three opposed. This overwhelming support for our military shows how meaningful a job they do to keep us safe. If only we could get Congress to agree on just about anything else...
The transition from military life to civilian life is not easy for all of our heroes and it can be especially taxing on their families. That is when we, as ordinary citizens, need to step in to lend a helping hand or donate to a cause that works. If you own a business, we all need to make a real effort to hire a veteran. Or if you are not an employer, you can still help by donating to Hire Heroes - a nonprofit dedicated to creating job opportunities for veterans and their spouses. Another great organization to donate to is Welcome Back Veterans, which was created to help returning veterans. One of my personal favorites is Soldiers' Angels and you can donate directly on their site or through their Wish List. And at DollarDays, on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 in products to military families, veteran's organizations and veterans, so make sure you nominate someone you know or an organization you support today.
In 1945 we had 12 million active military personnel and today we have 1.3 million, all who have volunteered to keep the peace. They are our friends, family and bravest in our communities. Volunteering is a hard decision to make. It pulls these soldiers away from their towns, their pals and their support systems. Every day they are in harm's way. If we can continue to support our service members of today, it will only strengthen our military for tomorrow.