Masters of Their Fate:
Post 9/11 Veterans and Invisible Wounds

Most Americans and veterans agree that the public does not fully understand the issues facing post-9/11 warriors and their families. Military service is a huge part of veteran identity, providing warriors with a sense of purpose and belonging. The civilian-military divide is pronounced when it comes to issues like employment, education, and wellness. For many, these are difficult topics to discuss — but it’s critical that we tackle them.

The Bush Institute is committed to helping our nation know and understand our vets. It’s often said you can’t know someone until you walk a mile in his or her shoes. So meet Joe, a post-9/11 veteran. We hope his story, drawn from the stories of many real service members, will help bridge the divide and better #knowourvets.

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Over the next five years, more than 1 million post-9/11 servicemen and women will transition out of the U.S. military.

Research shows a civilian-military divide: 71% of Americans say they have little understanding of the issues facing post-9/11 veterans.

And 84% of veterans say the public has “little awareness” of the issues facing them and their families.

This split can make transition a challenge for veterans as well as for the employers who want to hire them, the universities that want to educate them, and the families and communities that want to help reintegrate them.

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The Invisible Wounds of War

Warriors who return home with injuries — particularly invisible wounds such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post traumatic stress (PTS) — may face greater misunderstanding.

In fact, in a Bush Institute survey, more than half of warrior respondents said they believe managing invisible wounds is the most challenging transition issue faced by veterans returning to civilian life. Civilians agree — in the same survey, they noted that warriors with PTS or TBI were more likely to be viewed negatively in the workplace or in their communities.

Stigmas exist in the military as well — some veterans hesitate to ask for help, fearing they will be labeled weak, that their security clearances will be jeopardized, that they won’t be allowed to deploy, or that their career path will suffer.

Meet Joe