A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than at any time since the peace-time era between World Wars I and II.

During the past decade, as the military has engaged in the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, just 0.5% of the American population has served on active duty at any given time. At the height of World War II, the comparable figure was nearly 9%.

And as the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant. A look at attitudes among military veterans and the general public shows that 84% of veterans who served after the 9/11 terror attacks say the public does not understand the problems faced by those in the military or their families. The public agrees, though by a less lopsided majority — 71%.

The American public is well aware that the sacrifices the nation was called upon to make following the attacks have not been borne evenly. More than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say that members of the military and their families have had to make “a lot of sacrifices,” while just 43% say the same about the public as a whole. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.