Those Who Serve
A very small number of Americans are now serving in the military — less than 1 percent. In this series, NPR looks at those who have made the decision to fight in America's wars.
- Hide captionAfghan National Army, or ANA, troops practice a building entry clearing exercise at Combat Outpost Arian in Ghazni province.David Gilkey/NPR
- Hide captionANA soldiers plot coordinates on a map with the help of their American trainers.David Gilkey/NPR
- Hide captionAmerican troops have been training the ANA to take charge in the fight against the Taliban.David Gilkey/NPR
- Hide captionThe American troops rarely leave the small fort surrounded by sandbags and razor wire.David Gilkey/NPR
- Hide captionAt first Sgt. Chris Cunningham was dismayed by his new assignment as a trainer at Arian. "I was nervous because I knew the ANA before," he explains. "They aren't anything like they are now. They were undisciplined and lazy."David Gilkey/NPR
- Hide captionANA troops march in formation during a morning training exercise at Combat Outpost Arian in Ghazni province. Cunningham sees a new willingness to take on the Taliban and an eagerness to learn about what the ANA will face.David Gilkey/NPR
Sgt. Chris Cunningham has served five tours in Afghanistan, surviving some of the past decade's most horrific fighting. These days, his excitement about war has been replaced by a grim wisdom — and the heavy responsibility of teaching Afghan soldiers and honoring fallen comrades.
July 6, 2011 Darryl St. George, 29, taught high school history on Long Island, N.Y. "But I felt like something was missing. ... I felt compelled to serve," he says. So he enlisted and became a Navy corpsman. His former co-workers had a tough time understanding that decision.
July 5, 2011 For Sgt. Jon Moulder, like many Marines serving in Afghanistan, the question is whether it's all worth it. Moulder has survived four roadside bomb explosions. He's seeing a counselor about post-traumatic stress. And he's feeling forgotten by Americans back home.
July 4, 2011 Marine Pfc. Dave Kroha signed up when his mom offhandedly suggested it after he got into a few bar fights. Less than 1 percent of Americans now serve in the armed forces, and their reasons for joining vary — from patriotism, to family tradition, to adventure, to finding purpose.