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Value of Service

"Our force — the finest in the world and made up entirely of volunteers — delivers across the battlespace. It reinforces American ideals of personal liberty and freedom. And it offers Americans who have the desire and ability to serve training, career mobility and financial benefits in addition to community, connection and a common purpose."

A National Guardsman examines a map in the dark using a headlamp during the Best Warrior Competition.

The history of America is the story of service. It is the history of ordinary citizens volunteering to serve for the greater good of the country.

A Marine Corps Cpl. recites the oath of enlistment during his reenlistment ceremony.

The U.S. military is an avenue for service. Since the beginning of the republic, millions of service members have raised their hands and sworn to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Soldiers conduct a night jump with the Dolomite Mountains in the distance.

Today, more than 3 million service members and DOD civilians serve around the world to protect and defend the United States, its citizens and interests, and U.S. allies and partners.

Soldiers in an all-black regiment called the Harlem Hellfighters pose with their awards for gallantry in combat, 1919.

But throughout American history, there were artificial bars to service. Whole groups of Americans were precluded from volunteering to serve. These groups had to fight for the right to serve. In some cases, they fought in the nation’s wars to prove their worth to the United States.

A Navy Petty Officer stands watch in the combat information center.

The U.S. military is a meritocracy. The ideal is that the military wants the best person for a job. People should be judged by their competence, their character and their capability.

Hundreds of Marines salute during a Marine Corps pageant.


2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force. Established on July 1, 1973, the all-volunteer force was a return to the tradition of voluntary service in the military. Every soldier, Marine, sailor, airman and guardian in the military today is a volunteer, and that effort has produced the finest fighting force the world has ever seen.

African-American and white soldiers during World War II​.


This is the 75th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981, which abolished segregation in the U.S. armed forces. He issued the order July 26, 1948.

1952 Women service members.


President Truman also signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act on June 12, 1948. That act allowed women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces. Prior to the act, women served only in national emergencies.

Marine Corps Capt. Marina Hierl speaks with a Malaysian service member


2023 marks a decade since former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, eliminated the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule. They directed the military services and U.S. Special Operations Command to open all military occupational specialties to women, including frontline combat units


Message From the Secretary of Defense



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