U.S. Troops: The real one percent

The real divide in the U.S is that only one percent of us fight in war, and the rest don't understand the true cost of conflict - an op-ed piece by "60 Minutes" producer Henry Schuster

The following op-ed was written by "60 Minutes" producer Henry Schuster.

We like to divide the world up. It's only natural to think in terms of us vs. them. Right now, in the public discourse, it seems to be all about the wealthiest one percent and the rest of us - the 99 percent.

However, after covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last ten years -- including numerous trips to the war zones and to military communities here at home -- I've learned there's another one percent, who I call the real one percent. They are the men and women who fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya) and their families. The rest of us are the 99 percent.

We lend our moral support to the one percent. We cheer the veterans when their names are announced at ball games. Maybe we even have ribbons of various colors on our car. We say the obligatory "thank you for your service," and I believe we mean it. But we don't really understand what that service really means for these members of the military.

We don't understand that the cost of war doesn't end when the troops come home, but is instead often paid out over the years.

This is our real great divide in this country. It is in part the consequence of an all-volunteer military. It is also in part the consequence of fighting wars without involving the rest of us. We weren't asked to sacrifice after 9/11 or pay for the wars that followed. Imagine the reaction if we had a war tax. Or if there had been a draft. Instead, we've got the few fighting for the many and they do it at great cost to themselves and their families.

Last season on "60 Minutes," we did a story about homeless veterans and a program called Stand Down to help them. And now, on this week's broadcast, Scott Pelley and I report on Operation Proper Exit, a story about the price of war being paid by the real one percent. Part of that price is the horrific wounds suffered by many who, in wars past, might have died. Advances in military medicine allowed them to survive - survive with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. That's something the rest of us, the 99 percent, need to know.