What Americans Don’t Know About Military Families

tags: military history, Afghanistan, military families

Andrea Mazzarino is the author, with Catherine Lutz of War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and founder of the Costs of War Project.

Raising American consciousness about the aftermath of this war is going to be tough, though. Fewer veterans have fought in Afghanistan than in any other recent American war and it’s been the veterans of foreign wars who have kept alive the issue of the health problems such military families face. It’s veterans who often help returning troops register for disability status, counsel them on how to navigate the court system, drive them to their medical appointments, and serve as peer health advocates and counselors.

All this leaves me wondering what will happen to Afghan veterans who endured longer and more frequent deployments than their counterparts from the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the first Gulf War. With the end of our draft system in 1973, it’s become so much easier to convince the public that military families are okay. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center Survey, more than three-quarters of adults aged 50 and older reported that they had an immediate family member who had served in the military. Only a third of adults ages 18 to 29 could say the same.

In short, most Americans no longer have first-hand or even second-hand knowledge of what it’s like to serve in the military during such wars. Bases, even in this country, are enclosed and heavily guarded. (They weren’t always this way.) And the unpaid volunteer work military spouses are expected to perform does not help them interact with civilian families.

In other words, Americans know remarkably little about the lives of the uniformed troops who fight wars in their names and largely live separated from them on islands in this country.

Read entire article at TomDispatch

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