The American Veteran Experience and the Post-9/11 Generation

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: Compared to veterans of previous wars, post-9/11 military veterans are more likely to have been deployed and seen combat, and thus more likely to have suffered the mental and physical consequences of war. While this has impacted their transition to civilian life and view of the government, it hasn’t significantly changed their view of the military or perception of public appreciation, relative to past veterans.

Post 9/11-veterans were more likely to be deployed and see combat than previous generations.

77% of post-9/11 veterans were deployed at least once, compared to 58% percent who only served before 9/11. Around half of post-9/11 veterans had combat experience, compared to just 29% percent of those who served before. 57% of combat veterans have seen someone from their unit “seriously injured or killed,” while one in five combat veterans were injured themselves.

These veterans were also more likely to have heightened post war experiences, both positive and negative.

About half of post-9/11 veterans said they have experienced PTSD, compared to just a quarter of pre-9/11 veterans. Unsurprisingly, combat veterans are even more likely to have suffered trauma. On the flip side, post-9/11 veterans are also more likely to say that their combat experience made them feel close to those they fought beside, as well as that their experience had a positive impact on their career.

Post-9/11 veterans struggled to adjust to civilian life, but had a relatively easy time finding jobs.

Around half of post-9/11 veterans said it was somewhat or very difficult to transition back to civilian life, compared to just over 20 percent of pre-9/11 veterans who said the same thing. The transition was more difficult for those who saw combat or experienced post-traumatic stress. But most veterans said their military experience gave them skills that helped them in their civilian occupation. Most veterans “either had a job lined up or looked for a job right away after leaving the military.”

Despite the other changes, public perception of military veterans remains relatively high.

A majority of both veterans and members of the public say that “disciplined” and “patriotic” are words that best describe veterans. However, while 47% of veterans say that those who served in the military are “tolerant and open to all groups of people,” only 19 percent of the public would say the same. Still, a majority of veterans and the public agree that “most Americans look up to people who have served in the military.”

Read the full study here.