Since 1973, there has been no military draft. So unlike other U.S. wars waged in the past century, the post-9/11 conflicts have been fought exclusively by a professional military and enlisted volunteers. During this decade of sustained warfare, only about 0.5% of the American public has been on active duty at any given time. (At the height of World War II, the comparable figure was nearly 9%.) As a result of the relatively small size of the modern military, most of those who served during the past decade were deployed more than once, and 60% were deployed to a combat zone.

One apparent result is that 84% of modern-era veterans say that the American public has little or no understanding of the problems that those in the military face. The public shares in that assessment, albeit by a less lopsided majority – 71%.

The American public is well aware that the sacrifices the nation was called upon to make following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been borne evenly across the military-civilian divide. 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.

But even among those who say the military’s sacrifices have been greater than the public’s, seven-in-ten say they see nothing unfair in this disparity. Rather, they say, it’s “just part of being in the military.” Read More

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