May 26, 2014

About half of veterans of post-9/11 wars served with someone who was killed

Veteran Salutes Flag During Parade
Retired Army 1st Sgt. William Staude, of Elliott, Pa., salutes the U.S. flag being carried by soldiers from the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Credit: The U.S. Army

The practice of dedicating a day to honoring America’s war dead has its roots in the years immediately after the Civil War and was officially declared a national holiday by Congress in 1971 to honor the fallen of all wars.

47% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans served with someone who was killed during their serviceThe day will be an intensely personal experience for many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts — about half (47%)  said that they served with a comrade that had been killed, according to a Pew Research Center survey of veterans conducted in 2011. That number rises to 62% among soldiers who were in combat.

Service members who were seriously wounded or knew someone who was killed or seriously wound were more likely to say the wars were worth fighting. In the case of Iraq, 48% of these veterans said the war was worth fighting compared with 36% who said it was not. For Afghanistan, the margin saying the war was worth fighting was higher — 55% to 40%. 

Exposure to casualties also had an effect on the emotional well-being of many veterans. Veterans who suffered their own injuries, or experienced the death or serious injuries of others, were more than twice as likely (54% to 22%) to say they had undergone an emotionally traumatic or distressing event during their service than those not exposed to casualties.

Veterans exposed to casualties were also more likely to say, by 42% to 27%, that they suffered from post-traumatic stress.


Number of military deaths in major U.S. wars

Topics: Military and Veterans, Wars and International Conflicts

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a Senior Editor at the Pew Research Center.

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  1. Tamara5 months ago

    Thanks Pew staff. I especially found your graphic of the number of U.S. military deaths per war enlightening.
    -I think it would be interesting to know how many total deaths there were during those wars; not only our military service members. Got any estimates?
    -I’d also like to know the duration of the military personnel deployment.
    -The racial demographics of the deceased vs. demographics of the military, vs. the demographics of the U.S. population.
    -The number of military personnel who were injured during each war.
    -And finally, a comparison of the duration of each war.
    Thank you!

  2. jim Librarian5 months ago

    Hmm, CalVets Is a California Vets Advocacy group. Highly loved. As a Vet, and Archivist, librarian CalVets introduced a public library vrts resource center concept…I wonder if data can support a National growth dialog?
    Salutes this Veterans Day 2014 to Families, Colleagues, Veterans all.

  3. Trish10 months ago

    One must remember many of the soldiers in all wars up through Vietnam had soldiers by conscription, not voluntary signatures. Many of the 21st century soldiers may not have had 4+ terms of duty and with injury if there had been conscription. I don’t want us to return to that but we should not have gone to Iraq to begin with and our time in Afghanistan could have been over in Bush’s first term if he had done anything right. He didn’t. What we must do now is make sure all our veterans are cared for with homes, jobs and medical facilities for their needs. Too many in Congress want them to get that by themselves with no monetary assistance from us and that’s not right. Congress sent them there; Congress must care for them for the next 40-60 years.

    1. jim Librarian5 months ago

      Salutes. Great Points, jpw, SFCA. Artsin Vets, American Veterans Committee.

  4. Cathie M Currie, PhD10 months ago

    A timely graph for Memorial Day.

    The graph, however, excludes wars against our Native Americans, which would include deaths from both sides, and our war against Mexico.

    The American population at the time of the American Revolution was approximately 2,500,000 and deaths were 2 per 1000. The Civil War population was estimated to be 31,443,321, thus one tenth of our current population, and deaths were 15 per thousand.

    Each life lost was precious. In each death, families and communities were devastated. We must support our strong military and, in the same effort, we must seek peaceful ways to protect our nation.