Throughout the past century, and even in the 21st century, the USA has been involved in a number of military conflicts, which results in the presence of many veterans in the American society. Some people support the American intervention in global wars, while others consider it a waste of money, time, and human resources; all these views affect public attitudes to veterans and the way in which they are treated. While there is little disagreement about the propriety of participation in World War II, and that war’s veterans are highly respected and cherished individuals, US-Vietnam war and the recent war in Iraq faces much less unanimous reactions. Hence, this essay aims at clarifying what the public attitudes to veterans are in the USA, and how they differ depending on the war in which a veteran participated.
According to the public opinion polls, the US veterans have been consistent about positive evaluations of governmental support and assistance they got after return from the battlefield. Both in the aftermath of wars and many decades later, veterans agreed that they received all they needed from state authorities. The public nevertheless does not share that opinion by claiming that veterans should get more from the government than they are currently granted. This outcome of the Roper Center’s poll (Herrnson & Weldon, 2014) shows that the public is highly positive and supportive of veterans, and wants them to have more benefits from the state.
RAND Corporation’s research on the public attitudes to Iraq war’s veterans arrived at similar conclusions; the RAND expert found out that while the major part of Americans disapproved of that war and still consider it an unpopular decision, they are highly positive towards veterans of that war. Veterans of the Iraq war are regarded as having numerous post-battlefield problems and disorders such as PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and other invisible traumas besides physical injuries and disabilities. Therefore, support for Iraqi veterans is also quite high among the American public, suggesting the public support towards provision of more services and help for those who served and participated in the active combat (Kleykamp, 2016).
In addition to overall positive attitudes and respect to veterans of all wars, the American public sees the role of Vietnam veterans as largely underestimated by the US government. As it comes from the Roper Center’s poll already cited above, American citizens believe that Vietnam veterans have received benefits similar to those of other wars’ veterans, while their health and emotional problems connected with participation in that war are more serious. Among the most pronounced and unaddressed issues, the respondents named unemployment and emotional challenges, which requires more attention with relevant social services in the USA (Herrnson & Weldon, 2014). Based on this positive attitude, Americans also voiced support for increasing the annual budget allocations for the veteran benefits and services. This change in attitudes is very optimistic, since at the time of Vietnam war’s end, the veterans were unwelcomed because of active disapproval and lack of public support for that war. Such negativity among Americans caused a number of negative post-war experiences such as the need to stay invisible, to conceal physical and psychological traumas, and to hide traumatic experiences (Shipler, 2015).
Thus, as one can see from the presented facts, the US public is largely positive about veterans nowadays, and though attitudes are equally good to all wars’ veterans, for Vietnam veterans, the situation is a change for the better. Historically, only participation in WWI and WWII were publicly approved as necessary steps of protecting the nation from evil perpetrators, while Vietnam and Iraq wars are regarded as the state’s lawless interference with the activities of another state. Therefore, it is comforting to see that people distinguish their attitudes to the war and to servants obliged to follow their duty and commands of seniors, thus being urged into unwanted and unpopular military activities.
Herrnson, P., & Weldon, K. (2014). A hero’s welcome: the American public and attitudes towards veterans. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-herrnson/a-heros-welcome-the-ameri_b_6121898.html
Kleykamp, M. A. (2016). Public attitudes toward military veterans. RAND. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/sociology/seminars/kleykamp.html
Shipler, D. K. (2015). Another view of Vietnam veterans. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/another-view-of-vietnam-veterans