Why America loves its military

The military is also perceived as more effective than other institutions in achieving its goals, and that is another probable explanation for its high standing. The military’s mission to protect and defend the country is clearly and narrowly defined, and it performs these functions extremely well. The Navy SEALs’ precision raid on Osama bin Laden’s hiding place in Pakistan is only the latest example. In contrast, there’s hardly an issue in which the U.S. Congress isn’t involved. Its mission is diffuse and sprawling, and there is a lot to criticize.

Outward performance matters, but the military has excelled internally as well. Americans have asked the armed forces to be a laboratory for social change, on issues such as integrating blacks and women, dealing with two-parent working families or, more recently, allowing homosexuals to serve openly. The military has often embraced these changes earlier than other institutions, and although the path has not always been smooth, it has addressed the challenges and moved forward…

Americans value honor, duty and sacrifice. Institutions that inculcate and embody those virtues, such as the military, have our deep respect. In his West Point speech, Mullen reminded the cadets of the importance of reaching out to the civilian population that doesn’t always understand the “full weight” of military service. Polls today show that after a decade of an exhausting war on terrorism, Americans’ appreciation for men and women in uniform is strong and deep. Civilians have a responsibility to reach out too, and not just on Memorial Day.