The United States has the greatest military in the history of the world.
Most Americans know that. Too few of us appreciate why.
It is impossible not to be awed by our aircraft carriers. It is normal to be wowed by our fighter jets. It is easy to be dazzled by our weapons technology and surveillance capabilities. But these are not the measures of our military greatness.
Ultimately, our armed forces are defined by the 1 million men and women who choose to guard American interests on the land, in the air, and on and in the seas.
Behold the training. The U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy are three of the greatest educational institutions in the world. The phrase "West Point grad" elicits immediate respect from Americans of all stripes. They define rigor, honor, and discipline.
Or consider the Marine Corps scout sniper school, which forges some of the finest combat snipers by weeding out all but the best. Look at Army medics who, over 26 weeks of intensive training, become warriors and life savers. Then there are Air Force air-ground combat controllers, who learn their trade for more than a year before earning their specialization. Young Navy submariners spend their first year on dangerous duty, while learning the intricacies of a nuclear warship. And then there are the instructors who choose to continue serving even when they could make far more money in the private sector.
This unmatched training produces soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen of unequaled skill. It produces logistics officers who ensure forward deployed personnel are well armed, well equipped, and well fed. It produces intelligence specialists who allow commanders to find and destroy the enemy before he can kill Americans. It produces young men and women who save countless lives every year by destroying enemies such as the Islamic State and saving civilians after natural disasters.
When we consider the military as an institution, we see it not only as protecting us and our allies but also as forming souls for the better. Everyone has a friend, a family member, or a neighbor whose life story begins "I was a menace as a kid, and then I entered the military." Discipline, teamwork, respect for authority, and the ability to handle authority are all taught better in the military than anywhere else.
That formative role is probably why we still hold the military in high regard. Americans have mostly lost trust in the institutions that are so central to our society: federal and local governments, the news and entertainment media, academia, the clergy, and so on. But 80% of the public has "confidence in the military to act in the best interests" of the nation, according to a recent Pew poll. The public trusts the media only half as much.
Trust isn't a love of war. The Iraq War is generally regarded as a mistake. The Afghanistan War and occupation is seen as hopeless and unending. Most Americans don't want our soldiers going off to Syria or Venezuela to fight.
The high regard also isn't simply awe for our guns and fighter jets and ships.
People trust the military because they see military leaders as upstanding and dedicated men and women, who have formed the young adults of our country, citizen and noncitizen, into models of courage, sacrifice, and the pursuit of excellence.
So this military appreciation month, we salute the men and women who make our military mighty.
The Washington Examiner
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