They are deployed or stationed abroad in over 150 countries. Their boots are on the ground and engaged in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and more quietly in other countries besides. They’re aboard ship in every one of the seven seas, in the skies over every continent (even Antarctica!), and very often find themselves in space. They are, of course, the servicemen and women of the American armed forces, once again Free Beacon Men of the Year.
The reality of war is the most significant challenge that they face, but one well appreciated by the public. Less frequently observed are the everyday sacrifices. Even when they are home here in the United States, their jobs are some of the most demanding in the land, taking them away from their families to train for weeks or months as a time.
Many of their duties are dangerous even when the threat of hostilities is distant. When you talk about "safely" recovering an aircraft onto the rolling deck of a ship, or practicing the movement of infantry in coordination with indirect fire on a range, or living hundreds of feet below the surface of the sea, you are speaking in relative terms.
But of course war is out there, proceeding at a slow burn in the Middle East and South Asia, and always threatening to explode outright as various strongmen and repressive regimes flirt with an ambition to overthrow a world order based on the rule of law, freedom of the seas, and a decent respect for human freedom.
The most important thing that keeps these men in check is the fear of what over a million young Americans, recruited from every walk of life, will do to them if they try.