In post-9/11 America, one out of three veterans believe the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were not worth fighting, according to opinion surveys by the Pew Research Center.
The Center is a nonpartisan organization that researches and conducts polls regarding social trends and opinions. The final results of this poll were based on two surveys – one conducted in July (and polling 1,853 veterans), and the second in September (polling 2,003 adults who never served in the military).
The results also showed that though war veterans are proud of their work, they feel that the general public has little to no understanding of how the trauma and scarring of warfare affects them and their families.
Moreover, the survey showed that a large percentage of former soldiers also believed that the U.S. should focus less on foreign policy and handle its own problems. This feeling was particularly significant in the midst of the ongoing effort by the Obama administration to shrink major budget deficits, the report suggested.
Looking back, it was less than a month after the September 11th attacks that the U.S. began its military incursion into Afghanistan. By 2003, the U.S. was invading Iraq. Since then, roughly 4,500 troops have died in Iraq, while about 1,700 lost their lives in Afghanistan. Furthermore, combined war costs since then, the report noted, are over $1 trillion.
Meanwhile, soldiers lucky enough to make it back home have suffered long-term aftereffects. In a report by Al Jazeera, Andrew Wright, a 28 year-old Marine corporal who served in Iraq, Kuwait, Thailand, and Japan, spoke out about his post-war feelings.
“I went to boot camp in July of 2000 and got to my unit in December,” said Wright, “so I had been in my unit for nine or 10 months when 9/11 happened. I think at that point I was probably looking forward to the possibility of going to war. I had joined the Marine Corps, and I had joined the infantry, and that’s what I had trained to do.
“But in the build-up to the Iraq war, I thought it was a terrible idea. It didn’t actually make sense to me, and I considered not going.”
Afterward, Wright came back to the “real world,” as he put it, but noted that Iraq had been “the real world for a lot of people. I had been in a kill-or-be-killed situation, and that obviously has huge effects on how you go about your daily life. I remember being extremely uncomfortable in crowds, always hyper vigilant, always looking around, always checking things, treating [normal things] as life-or-death situations.”
As of now, there are roughly 98,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan.
As for the poll, its results went on to suggest that there is a widening – and troubling – cultural gap between the military and the general public. Though previous polls revealed that the average American holds the military in high regard, said Time, they also showed that modern citizens have little to no understanding of just what the military life is, and what it entails.
Jorge Gonzalez, a 31 year-old former U.S. army vehicle commander, also expressed regretful feelings toward the war. Having served in Iraq, he noted that he “saw a doctor and got diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and saw another doctor who said because of the things I experienced in Iraq I also had traumatic brain injuries – because I got blown up three different times in my vehicle from IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices.”
Recently, Gonzalez got involved with Iraq Veterans Against the War.
“I’m now the executive director of Coffee Strong, a veteran owned and operated GI coffee house located right outside Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” said Gonzalez. “It provides services, resources, and links to soldiers, veterans, and family members for various things like post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and veteran benefits.”
As for the war, Gonzalez concluded, “I wish we could’ve all gone together at the time and stood up against what we saw was wrong. But at the time, we didn’t know it was wrong. We thought we were doing good to our country and to our military.”
Photo: Veterans gather at Coffee Strong, located in Lakewood, Wash., to celebrate its one-year anniversary in 2009. The coffee house is a place for war veterans who may be suffering traumatic post-war aftereffects. From coffeestrong.