Before the 10 year anniversary of the conflict in Afghanistan – America’s longest war – a new poll found that only 34 percent of U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believed that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worth fighting, given the costs and benefits to the U.S.
The poll highlighted the gap between the military and civilian points of view: 50 percent of veterans said Afghanistan was worth fighting, while 41 percent of civilians said the same. Some 44 percent of veterans said Iraq was worth it, compared with 36 percent of polled civilians who said the same thing.
The poll of former service members, conducted by the Pew Research Center, was based on two national surveys – one of the nation’s military veterans and another of the general public. Pew included 1,853 veterans, 712 of whom served in the military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in its polling.
One thing they agree on? Of the veterans surveyed, 84 percent said the American public had little or no understanding of the problems that those in the military face — 71 percent of the public agreed.
“The biggest challenge we face as a generation … is the unprecedented disconnect” between veterans and the public, Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told USA Today.
The poll found that 96 percent of veterans are proud of their military service, and 74 percent said their military experience had helped them get ahead in life.
Would this new generation of veterans advise a young person today to sign up? Yes, sir. Some 80 percent said they would encourage a young person to join the military, and 93 percent said the military had helped them mature.
But coming home was not easy. Nearly half of the veterans reported having a harder time readjusting to civilian life than previous eras of veterans – and whether they had been diagnosed or not, 37 percent of the vets reported experiencing post-traumatic stress. The majority of those returning from the battlefield would like to see the government’s attention turned inward - veterans said the U.S. should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on the long list of problems at home.