Nightly News   |  October 05, 2011

Poll: 33% of veterans said wars were not worth it

In a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 34 percent of combat veterans said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worth fighting. Nearly half said the wars put a strain on their lives at home. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And back in this country there's fresh and stark evidence tonight about another divide, the gap between the all volunteer military that fights this nation's wars and the civilians who don't. After 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan , a new study out today from the Pew Research Center asks veterans how they feel about their sacrifice. We get more from our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski .

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting: It's another startling sign that 10 years and two wars have taken a tremendous toll on America 's servicemen and women. In the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center , only 34 percent of combat veterans said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worth fighting. But nearly just as many, an alarming 33 percent, said the wars were not worth it. The survey dug even deeper into the personal impact of the wars, the terrible hardships suffered by the troops and their families. Nearly half said the wars put a strain on their lives at home. Nearly half said they frequently feel irritable or angry, and 37 percent said they suffer post-traumatic stress.

MIKLASZEWSKI: The economy also weighs heavily on their minds. Twenty-eight percent said they enlisted in part because they couldn't find a job in the public sector. Two months ago, the economy was the top concern when Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen visited soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan . Instead of asking about the war, they were more worried about budget cuts and losing their jobs.

Admiral MIKE MULLEN: We're going to have to tighten our belts and we're going to have to prioritize, we're going to have to make some hard decisions.

MIKLASZEWSKI: There's also a dramatic disconnect between American servicemembers and the rest of the country. Eight out of 10 of those veterans believe the American public has no idea of the problems they face in the service. And only 25 percent of civilians surveyed said they even pay any attention to the wars.

MIKLASZEWSKI: After 10 years of war, senior military officials here are not surprised by the negative responses in this survey and point out that nearly 90 percent of the veterans are still proud of their military service and 82 percent would still recommend that others enlist. Brian :

WILLIAMS: Interesting numbers. Jim Miklaszewski from the Pentagon . Jim , thanks.