War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era
The Military-Civilian Gap
October 5, 2011

As the United States marks the 10th anniversary of the longest period of sustained warfare in its history, the overwhelming majority of veterans of the post-9/11 era (96%) are proud of their military service. At the same time, more than four-in-ten (44%) report that they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life, and 37% say that – whether or not they have been formally diagnosed – they have suffered from post-traumatic stress. While post-9/11 veterans are more supportive than the general public, just one-third (34%) say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.

The nation’s post-9/11 wars have been fought by an all-volunteer active-duty military made up at any given time of just one half of one percent of the U.S. population. More than eight-in-ten (84%) of these modern-era veterans say the American public has little or no understanding of the problems that those in the military face. Most of the public (71%) agrees. Many Americans also acknowledge that since the 9/11 attacks, the military and their families have made more sacrifices than the public at large. But even among this group, only 26% say this gap is “unfair,” while 70% say that it’s “just part of being in the military.”

These are among the principal findings from a comprehensive new study by the Pew Research Center, based on two nationally representative surveys conducted between July 28 and Sept. 15 – one of the nation’s military veterans and another of the general public. A total of 1,853 veterans were surveyed, including 712 who served in the military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The general public survey was conducted among 2,003 adult respondents.

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