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There were around 20.4 million U.S. veterans in 2016, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. As Americans observe Veterans Day, here are key facts about those who have served in the military and how this population is changing.
Share of post-9/11 veterans who say their military experience was relevant to their civilian job.
The women who serve in today's military differ from the men who serve in a number of ways. Compared with their male counterparts, a greater share of military women are black and a smaller share are married. Also, women veterans of the post-9/11 era are less likely than men to have served in combat and more likely to be critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other ways, however, military women are not different from military men: they are just as likely to be officers; they joined the armed services for similar reasons; and post-9/11 veterans of both sexes have experienced a similar mix of struggles and rewards upon returning to civilian life. Since 1973, when the United States military ended conscription and established an all-volunteer force, the number of women serving on active duty has risen dramatically. The share of women among the enlisted ranks has increased seven-fold, from 2% to 14%, and the share among commissioned officers has quadrupled, from 4% to 16%.Department of Defense policy prohibits the assignment of women to any "unit below brigade level whose primary mission is direct ground combat." While this policy excludes women from being assigned to infantry, special operations commandos and some other roles, female members of the armed forces may still find themselves in situations that require combat action, such as defending their units if they come under attack.2This report explores the changing role of women in the military using several data sources. Two Department of Defense publications -- Population Representation in the Military Forces, FY2010 and Demographics 2010: Profile of the Military Community -- provide the overall trends in military participation by gender, as well as demographic and occupational profiles of male and female military personnel. The report also draws on data from two surveys of military veterans: a Pew Research Center survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,853 veterans conducted July 28-Sept. 4, 2011, and the July 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS) Veterans Supplement (n=9,739 veterans).
Military service is difficult, demanding and dangerous. But returning to civilian life also poses challenges for the men and women who have served in the armed forces, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans. While more than seven-in-ten veterans (72%) report they had an easy time readjusting to civilian life, 27% say re-entry was difficult for them -- a proportion that swells to 44% among veterans who served in the ten years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Why do some veterans have a hard time readjusting to civilian life while others make the transition with little or no difficulty? To answer that question, Pew researchers analyzed the attitudes, experiences and demographic characteristic of veterans to identify the factors that independently predict whether a service member will have an easy or difficult re-entry experience. Using a statistical technique known as logistic regression, the analysis examined the impact on re-entry of 18 demographic and attitudinal variables.
One out of every ten veterans alive today was seriously injured at some point while serving in the military, and three-quarters of those injuries occurred in combat. For many of these 2.2 million wounded warriors, the physical and emotional consequences of their wounds have endured long after they left the military, according to a Pew research Center survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,853 veterans conducted from July 18 to Sept. 4, 2011.Veterans who suffered major service-related injuries are more than twice as likely as their more fortunate comrades to say they had difficulties readjusting to civilian life. They are almost three times as likely as other veterans to report they have suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTS). And they are less likely in later life to be in overall good health or to hold full-time jobs.
America's post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are unique. Never before has this nation been engaged in conflicts for so long. And never before has it waged sustained warfare with so small a share of its population carrying the fight. This report sets out to explore a series of questions that arise from these historical anomalies. It does so on the strength of two nationwide surveys the Pew Research Center conducted in the late summer of 2011, as the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan approached.One survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,853 military veterans, including 712 who served on active duty in the period after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The other was among a nationally representative sample of 2,003 American adults. The report compares and contrasts the attitudes of post-9/11 veterans, pre-9/11 veterans and the general public on a wide range of matters, including sacrifice; burden sharing; patriotism; the worth of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the efficiency of the military and the effectiveness of modern military tactics; the best way to fight terrorism; the desirability of a return of the military draft; the nature of America's place in the world; and the gaps in understanding between the military and civilians.