By Joe Ragonese
I am proud to be a part of the one percent club. No, not an outlaw biker, rather a member of that one percent of Americans that have served in our armed forces. Yes, that is correct, only one percent of the total population of the United States has served in our military. And, what that minuscule number has accomplished is phenomenal. On November 11th, it is the day to remember those who have served.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself because too many people have no idea what that one percent has accomplished. By the way, that percentage number was not always so low, but it has almost never exceeded five percent. And, that was done on purpose. Our Founding Fathers feared a large standing army. That is why they wrote the Constitution the way that they did. The militia phrase in the Second Amendment reflects the founders abhorrence to a large standing army.
The militia were the citizen soldiers that our founders envisioned. And, what those militiamen accomplished was a miracle. Do not be fooled by armature or revisionist historians who tell us that the militia did very little to overpower the greatest army of its time, the British. What those numbers of farmers, clerks, apprentice tradesmen and laborers accomplished was the miracle that became the United States of America.
In the proud tradition of the Minutemen of Massachusetts, our Continental Army was born. They weren’t much better than the militia they replaced, other than that they were issued rifles and uniforms and had to serve an entire year. They couldn’t go home to plant or harvest their crops. But, during that one year enlistment they turned from citizen-soldiers into soldiers. And, those soldiers fought like nothing the Brits had ever encountered on European battlefields.
That Continental Army turned into the U.S. Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force of today. Those six branches are fully supported by reservists and national guardsmen. And, combined they are only one percent of the total legal population of the United States of America.
From 1775 until today our armed forces, militia, regular, reserves and national guard, fought the wars that secured our independence, and maintained our freedom and liberty for the 246 years, at home and abroad. Our first foreign war was against the Barbary Coast pirates that were seizing our ships, stealing its cargo and selling the sailors into slavery.
Those Barbary pirates were our first interaction with Islam. Several naval battles were fought, but an upstart lieutenant in the US Marine Corps gathered tribes opposed to the ruling sultan. Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led a force of eight U.S. Marines and five hundred mercenaries consisting of Greeks from Crete, local Arab tribes, and Berbers, on a march across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt, to capture the Tripolitan city of Derna.
This was the first time the United States flag was raised in victory on foreign soil. The action is memorialized in a line of the Marines’ Hymn—”the shores of Tripoli”. The capturing of the city gave American negotiators leverage in securing the return of hostages and the end of the war.
However, acts of courage and independent thinking marked every victory America had won. It is the tradition that continued throughout the eastern Indian wars, the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars, right up to the tragedy of our Civil War. In that conflict there was no lack courage and independent thought on either side.
After that shameful chapter in our history, where brother fought against brother, this nation bonded as one again in the Spanish American War, the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Viet Nam, Gulf War One and Two, and the twenty-year War on Terror.
Throughout those trying times, only five percent, or less, of the population served in any position in our armed forces. Since the end of the mandatory draft in the early 1970s, that number has fallen to only one percent.
And that one percent has carried the burden of maintaining the promise of our Constitution. While we sip our overpriced Lattes and enjoy the right to act stupidly in public in the name of diversity, or anything else we wish to call it, this one percent has placed itself in harm’s way in order to allow the rest of us the freedom to do whatever we want.
That is what liberty and freedom is all about. While some of us protest everything and anything, that one percent stands guard to make sure that we can. Silently and in the background, yet forever vigilant. So far in the background and so silent, that too many forget that the one percent is even there.
So, on November 11th remember those who served this nation, from the old grey haired Korean and Viet Nam vets, to the wrinkle free youth just returning from Afghanistan. Because without them America would no longer be the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.