This week marks the ten year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The end of the war, coupled with the ongoing draw down of military operations in Afghanistan means thousands of veterans are returning to the country. As the current veteran population returns to civilian life, they face key differences from previous generations.
45,000 veterans from post-9/11 conflicts currently reside in Massachusetts, and the state’s Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Coleman Nee contrasts that with the close to 900,000 veterans that returned to the Bay State after World War II. Nee says the current generation of veterans are returning to a civilian population that may have trouble relating to their experiences.
“The majority of the folks that are around them on a daily basis, whether they be at work, or school, or at home, or in neighborhoods, or cities and towns, haven’t served in the military or haven’t deployed. That can be difficult for them coming back to be able to relate with their fellow Americans, and can sometime impact the reintegration process.”
Nee says veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are also more racially diverse than previous generations, and there are more women veterans than ever before. Additionally, many veterans were deployed multiple times. Nee says that presents a challenge to Veterans Service systems, most of which were created for veterans of World War II, “who were overwhelming numbers white, overwhelming numbers men, came back to a society where most of the people in the society themselves had served. Those are challenges in terms of modernizing that system for today’s returning veterans that we’re struggling with, and we think we’re making progress with everyday.”
Nee says Massachusetts spends more per capita on veterans’ services than any other state in the country, but he says the state still needs to modernize and improve its support systems for veterans.