Friday's Evening with an Author fund raising event featuring Sebastian Junger was enormously successful. Mr. Junger's reflections on Afghanistan and the conflict there, as well as his discussion of his friend and colleague Tim Hetherington killed only a few weeks ago while covering the fighting in Libya were eloquent and affecting. I also wanted to share with you a portion of my remarks. The proximity of Evening with an Author to Memorial Day, the subjects of the evening's remarks, and my later attendance at events commemorating Memorial Day seemed to speak to several matters raised both during the evening and over the next several days.
When the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend was first discussed as the date for Mr. Junger’s appearance there were some misgivings voiced over the wisdom of scheduling EWA on the cusp of a holiday weekend. Personally, given the subject matter of WAR and the experiences we will hear of this evening, I could think of few more appropriate dates. Your presence as part of a capacity audience confirms the efficacy of selecting the date we did. There was also the subject matter, the War in Afghanistan, a conflict that sizable segments of the population are dubious of, disconnected from, or have filtered out of their daily lives. A frequently cited statistic augments this statement: less than 1 percent of the population serves in uniform at a time when the country is engaged in one of the longest periods of sustained combat in its history. "One percent of Americans are touched by this war.” Regardless of your attitude towards the war keep those statics in mind as you listen to Mr. Junger’s discourse, read WAR or view the film Restrepo. Contemplate the profound implications of that imbalance. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put it “"[T]here is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend." That sentiment was echoed by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who cited that same 1 percent statistic, and continued "I worry that we could wake up one day and that the American people will no longer know us, and we won't know them." I hope that after listening to tonight’s presentation, reading WAR and watching RESTREPO, you will better understand and appreciate those who defend the remaining 99% of us, and the potential consequences of that ominous 1% statistic.