A nagging worry stumps military leaders in the waning days of two unpopular wars amid calls to drastically cut defense spending.
What can they do about the growing disconnect between the shrinking armed forces and the people they risk their lives to defend?
One answer being explored more broadly is the Internet.
On Friday, as the nation celebrated Veterans Day, First Lady Michelle Obama turned to Google to urge Americans to reach out to military families through a new set of tools that will let troops share their stories and connect with each other and the world.
"Each of us can do something to give back," Obama said in a video released on Google's new veterans channel on YouTube. Americans, she said, should show military families their service is appreciated to "truly serve those who serve us."
For the nation's 2.2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, there is a gap between the military and Main Street that keeps people from understanding their needs _ from equipment and caring for the wounded to supporting the families of troops deployed for as long as 12 months at a time.
"I fear they do not know us," Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the 2011 graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May. "I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle."
The website showing Mrs. Obama's video also allows military members and veterans to upload videos, photos and memories to share their stories online. It also has tools to help draft a resume and connect with other veterans or prospective employers.
Interested people can also use the website to post videos of their own to thank service members.
The website is http://www.googleforveterans.com.