May 22, 2015

Memorial Day: 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 — though it wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday by Congress 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% among those not exposed to casualties. 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.

U.S. Military Deaths

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on May 26, 2014.

Topics: Wars and International Conflicts, Military and Veterans

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. Jim Starowicz2 years ago

    “With no shared sacrifices being asked of civilians after Sept. 11″ {And Still None nor Demand There Should Be, Just Attacks on VA Personal, Conservative media hyped ‘scandals’ nothing done from previous hearings!!}

    “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

    Theodore Roosevelt, “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” 1903

    Chris Hayes : “If you can run a deficit to go to war, you can run a deficit to take care of the people who fought it” In response to Republican, long ago lost as the party of Lincoln and not just as to us Veterans, opposition to expanding Veterans’ benefits on fiscal grounds

    Sen. Bernie Sanders told Conservatives: “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, than don’t go war. These people are bearing the brunt of what war is about, We have a moral obligation to support them.” February, 26th, 2014

    Neither of these recent wars have yet been paid for, nor the continued blowback from the spread and growth from the policies implemented!

    Neither the long term results from, including the long ignored or outright denied existence of, till this Administrations Cabinet and Gen Shinseki, only Government branch consistent for the past six years, Veterans issues from!

    As well as under deficits most of the, grossly under funded for decades and the wars from now, VA budget is still borrowed, with interest, thus added problem creating costs, with representative who control the purse strings blaming the mostly dedicated VA personal within, that shouldn’t exist!

    “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

    “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan” – President Lincoln

    USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent**

  2. Jim Starowicz2 years ago

    “With no shared sacrifices being asked of civilians after Sept. 11″ {And Still None nor Demand There Should Be, Just Attacks on VA Personal, Conservative media hyped ‘scandals’ nothing done from previous hearings!!}

    Facts: Matthew Hoh {former Marine and foreign service officer in Afghanistan}: “We spend a trillion dollars a year on national security in this country.”
    “And when you add up to the Department of Defense, Department of State, CIA, Veterans Affairs, interest on debt, the number that strikes me the most about how much we’re committed financially to these wars and to our current policies is we have spent $250 billion already just on interest payments on the debt we’ve incurred for the Iraq and Afghan wars.” 26 September 2014

    Bob Herbert * Losing Our Way * : “And then the staggering costs of these wars, which are borne by the taxpayers. I mean, one of the things that was insane was that, as we’re at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration cut taxes. This has never been done in American history. The idea of cutting taxes while you’re going to war is just crazy. I mean, it’s madness.” Bill ‘Moyers and Company’: Restoring an America That Has Lost its Way 10 Oct. 2014

    ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 – * Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans *
    “DeLara’s case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.”

    Part Two: * A Son Lost in Iraq, but Where Is the Casualty Report? *

    * Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort *

    Add in the issues of finally recognizing in War Theater and more Veterans, by the Shinseki Veterans Administration and the Executive Administrations Cabinet, what the Country choose to ignore from our previous decades and wars of: The devastating effects on Test Vets and from PTS, Agent Orange, Homelessness, more recent the Desert Storm troops Gulf War Illnesses, Gulf War Exposures with the very recent affects from In-Theater Burn Pits and oh so so much more! Tens of Thousands of Veterans’ that have been long ignored and maligned by previous VA’s and the whole Country and through their representatives!

    “Conservatives Continue Blocking Military Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana”
    Conservative Think, American Enterprise Institute, Tanks Own: “Sally Satel Still Selling Care for PTSD Veterans is Waste of Money”. Long Time, Vietnam, Veterans Nemesis and Denier
    Giving long time, Veterans nemesis Sally, from the Conservative Think Tank ‘American Enterprise Institute’, another big smile! Giving Conservatives their talking points and the citizens served whole heartedly following their lead as the decades long, wars from, obstruction to the peoples responsibility, the VA budgets, continues! She’s made herself quite infamous and wealthy over the decades with her writings and speeches doing what the country, especially conservatives, wanted in ignoring or out right denying the many issues of Veterans, especially from our, poser, patriotic wars!

    USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent**

  3. Tamara3 years 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!

  4. jim Librarian3 years 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.

  5. Trish3 years 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 Librarian3 years ago

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

  6. Cathie M Currie, PhD3 years 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.