Jamiel Law for NPR
This episode kicks off a new season from Rough Translation called Home/Front. In seven episodes, Rough Translation enlists NPR veterans correspondent Quil Lawrence to help us decode the cultural and communication gap between those who have served in the military and those who have not.
If you’ve served in the military or know someone who has, you’ve probably heard of the civilian-military (“civ-mil”) divide. It’s more than just a language and experience gap between veterans and civilians, it’s a separation of social circles. Surprisingly few civilians can claim to have a close friend who has served.
“Home” and “Front” haven’t always been so separate. When the US military relied on the draft, almost everyone at home knew someone at the front during times of war. Since 9/11, only 1% of Americans have served in the military.
The civ-mil divide can leave veterans feeling isolated and misunderstood, and civilians feeling powerless to criticize. Is it true that “you can’t understand” if you’ve never been to war? What would it take to have a conversation between civilians and veterans that feels safe and on equal footing?
Seeing the divide is the first step to bridging it. So this season, we’re telling stories about ordinary people who show us what is possible when we cross this divide.