On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the fourth year of the Great War, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Thus was the first Armistice Day, which was observed in Allied nations for years.
This picture of a traumatized military is misleading. Certainly, the Army and the other services are stressed by the demands of combat. But what's striking to me this Veterans Day is how healthy the military is, given all the weight it has been carrying for the country these past eight years.
Facing a new and disorienting kind of warfare, the military has learned and adapted. Rather than complain about their problems, soldiers have figured out ways to solve them.
In truth, the U.S. military may be the most resilient part of American society right now. The soldiers are clearly in better shape than the political class that sent them to war and the economic leadership that has mismanaged the economy. (I'd give the same high marks to young civilians who are serving and sacrificing in hard places -- the Peace Corps and medical volunteers I've met abroad and the teachers in tough inner-city schools.)
Through all its difficulties, the military has kept its stride. That sense of balance comes partly from the fact that soldiers are anchored to the American bedrock. This includes the stereotypical small towns in the South and Midwest that have military service in their DNA. But it also counts plenty of hardworking, upwardly mobile Hispanic and African American families in urban America that produce some of the best soldiers I know.
I had the pleasure of living in the military family when I traveled for 2 1/2 weeks recently with U.S. Central Command. What I heard, listening into the military's unscripted conversations, were the wisecracks and dark humor of soldiers trying to make the best of a hard situation. But there was also the satisfaction of fighting these tough and sometimes thankless wars: The troops don't boast about it, but they are very proud of what they have managed to accomplish.