Some of the men and women returning from the service genuinely need help. But most do not -- and they're tired of being pitied.
Judging from media accounts, I'm the rare American veteran who isn't homeless, homicidal, or suicidal.
To be sure, the toll of almost 11 years of constant war has been high. Divorce among military families is at record levels at a time when it's declining among the civilian population. As best we can tell, veterans are half again as likely to be homeless as non-veterans. And more soldiers have killed themselves this year than have died on the battlefield.
These trends are damning and shameful. Thankfully, society has taken notice. In the past few years, there's been more investment in counseling services and other programs to help ameliorate the trauma of war and the pain of separation from family.
At the same time, it's fair to note that the comparative statistics are skewed, and that once we control for age, sex, and level of education, veterans are doing better in all these categories than their non-veteran counterparts. It's vital that we make this distinction, lest we falsely blame service for problems better explained by other variables.
A classic case of that was a poignant Atlantic essay by Iraq War vet Alex Horton, "Lonely Men on Campus: Student Veterans Struggle to Fit In." It tells the tale of three veterans of our recent conflicts who left the service to go to college, only to find that they had little in common with students who hadn't shared their life-altering experiences. Theirs is an important story; we lure a lot of men and women into military service with the promise of paying for their education. We should ensure them the best possible chance of collecting on that debt with solid transitional counseling and on campus services.