Monday, November 28, 2005

Two military veterans who now work at the Heritage Foundation, have a column in USA Today debunking some of the myths and talking points about who are the people who are enlisting in the military. It is not, as Charlie Rangel likes to point out the poor and underprivileged of society who are enlisting.
According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.
Read the rest to see how the demographics of the military are much closer to that of the general population, except for the numbers of rural enlistees, than you might have suspected.

It reminds me of some of the myths of who served in Vietnam, from B. G. Burkett's book, Stolen Valor.
Myth: The war was fought predominantly by draftees.

Reality: About one-third of Vietnam-era veterans entered the military through the draft, far lower than the 67 percent drafted in World War II. And once drafted, many men volunteered for the Marines, the Airborne, Special Forces, or other duty likely to send them to Vietnam.

Myth: It was a class war, with the poor and lower middle class those who suffered the brunt of it. The best and the brightest didn't go.

Reality: The force that fought in Vietnam was America's best educated and most egalitarian in the country's history -- and with the advent of the all-volunteer Army is likely to remain so.

In World War II, only 45 percent of the troops had a high school diploma.

Many were virtually illiterate. During the Vietnam War, almost 80 percent of those who served had high school diplomas, even though, at the time, only 65 percent of military age youths in the U.S. had a high school degree.

Throughout the Vietnam era, the median education level of the enlisted man was about 13 years. Proportionately three times as many college graduates served in Vietnam than in World War II.

A study done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992 compared the socio-economics of the 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam to 58,000 randomly chosen contemporaries by rating their home-of-record according to per-capita income. They discovered that 30 percent of the KIAs came from the lowest third of the income range; but 26 percent of the combat deaths came from families earning in the highest third. This result was startling -- and far from the expectation that wealthier Americans were sheltered from the war.

Myth: The war took the highest toll on minorities.

Reality: About 5 percent of those who died were Hispanic and 12.5 percent were black -- making both minorities slightly under-represented in relation to their proportion of draft-age males in the national population.
It's amazing how the facts are so contrary to the stereotype from the media and the movies about Vietnam Vets. So, it's not surprising that the standard line about those serving today is off base.