As of this year there are an estimated 18M U.S. Veterans according the Department of Veterans Affairs with Gulf War era Veterans surpassing Vietnam Veterans in 2018. 78% of Veterans have served during wartime.
According to a Pew Research,
“In 2018, about 7% of U.S. adults were veterans, down from 18% in 1980, according to the Census Bureau. This drop coincides with decreases in active-duty personnel. Over the past half-century, the number of people on active duty has dropped significantly, from 3.5 million in 1968, during the military draft era, to about 1.4 million (or less than 1% of all U.S. adults) in today’s all-volunteer force.”
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But these are numbers and statistics about U.S. Veterans. While interesting and insightful, they also make it too easy to reduce these men and women who served our country into a homogenous group and for us, an easy to digest military experience. America likes a “squared away” story, but our Veterans have served through extraordinary circumstances, both foreseeable and unexpected, but regardless, they are never the same.
American Veteran – You are never the same, a four-part docu-series premiering tonight on PBS, is an in-depth telling, in their own voices of the stories of diverse Veterans. It chronicles “the journey” from the beginning, Boot Camp, to “the reckoning” at home and the challenges they faced in between: racial integration, women in uniform, and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
“The military is part of America’s founding story – a project to which, as George Washington put it, every citizen owed “his personal services.” In war and in peace, what veterans have done in America’s name, and how they have been treated when they return, is woven into the fabric of the American story and has had a profound impact on our nation.
For those who have served, from the beginning of the republic to the present, military service has been a transformative experience. What is that experience, and how does it change the men and women who have joined the ranks? And throughout the nation’s history, how have vets been perceived? Sometimes honored, sometimes reviled, ignored, or forgotten, veterans may re-enter civilian life to encounter a population that often has little or no knowledge of their experience.”
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With Veteran’s Day 2021 approaching, as we look for Veterans to walk up, shake their hand, and “thank them for their service;” let us remember, “their service” can mean disparate things to them; they don’t all wear their service visibly; and America’s Veterans deserve our thanks and gratitude every day.
(All images via PBS website)