WASHINGTON — Flanked by armored vehicles and a coterie of senior military officers, President Donald Trump made a pitch at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday: Join the U.S. military.It was an unexpected turn in an Independence Day speech in his “Salute to America,” an event he envisioned and planned. Steeped in military history and appreciation, the address lauded specific achievements in each service’s past, acknowledged the presence of Medal of Honor recipients in the crowd and urged youth to serve in uniform in the future.
“They and thousands before us served with immense distinction, and they loved every minute of that service,” Trump said of the veterans decorated for valor. “To young Americans across our country, now is your chance to join our military and make a truly great statement in life. And you should do it.”
The remark garnered some cheers from the crowd gathered before him. But it also hit on a reality for the Pentagon: Military officials are increasingly concerned about finding recruits. The challenges include increasing obesity across the nation, a growing economy that has provided other job opportunities, and an overall declining desire among young Americans to serve.