In military slang, “got your six” means “I’ve got your back.” And a recent publicity campaign, launched with the help of some well-known actors and entertainers, uses that phrase to draw attention to the two million or so Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans transitioning back to civilian life.
For the last ten years, the U.S. has been at war in the Middle East, but for many here at home, it’s out of sight, out of mind. On the program today, Alex spoke with two men who are trying to focus the national dialogue on veterans: James Wright, the author of the new book, “Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them,” and David Wood, the Pulitzer Prize-winning senior military correspondent with the Huffington Post.
During World War II, 12% of the population served in the military. Celebrities like Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Glenn Miller went to combat. Now, less than 1% of the population serves in military, and Wright says, “Fewer Americans than ever before during wartime know someone in the military or in the war zones. Knowing someone who is there crisply focuses the mind on the distant conflict.”
But the problems these soldiers face are massive. According to Wood, 18 veterans commit suicide every day, 6,750 each year. And veterans are increasingly suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, with the U.S. Army estimating that 20% of the two million service members deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq will develop PTSD.
To protest the growing frustration, 30 to 50 post 9/11 veterans plan to return their service medals this weekend—a controversial move that will likely draw outrage from their fellow veterans.