(CN) – U.S. military veterans who served after 9/11 are much more likely to have been in combat zones than their pre-9/11 counterparts, and half say their service traumatized them, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
But despite those findings, most combat veterans from all generations said the experience showed them they are stronger than they believed and positively changed their priorities afterward, according to the report.
“I thought it was really striking to see the stark differences between pre- and post-9/11 veterans,” said Kim Parker, Pew’s director of social trends research.
The findings help shed light on what it means to be a veteran today, Parker said.
One in five veterans today served after 9/11. About three-fourths of those reported being deployed, versus just 58% of veterans who served before them, with post-9/11 veterans twice as likely to have served in combat zones, the report showed.
Thirty-five percent said they knew someone who was seriously injured in combat, 30% served with someone who was killed, and 57% of combat veterans reported seeing a fellow service member killed or seriously injured, the report shows.
That uptick in combat experience led later veterans to report more trouble transitioning to civilian life than their earlier counterparts.
Although 90% told Pew the military prepared them to serve, just half said the military prepared them for civilian life. Post-9/11 veterans were twice as likely to report a difficult transition, Pew said.
Forty-two percent of post-9/11 veterans said deployment had a negative impact on their mental health, versus just 17% of the pre-9/11 cohort. Thirty-six percent of veterans overall reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and those people expectedly reported a rougher transition to civilian life – including trouble paying bills (61% ), trouble finding medical care (42%), and substance abuse struggles (41%), Pew reported.
The numbers showed a positive impact on finding work, however, with most saying military service had a positive impact on their finances and helped them find jobs within six months after returning to civilian life.
The report from the Pew Research Center is based on two online surveys between May 14-June 3 – one of 1,284 veterans and one of 1,087 civilians. Pew generated another report from the surveys examining views of President Donald Trump as commander-in-chief and other military related topics.
That report showed most veterans approve of Trump as a commander but believe he relies too little on military advisers to lead.
The Pew reports come a day before the 18th anniversary of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, in which al-Qaeda carried out a series of four coordinated attacks against the United States using passenger jets as weapons. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, injured over 6,000 others and caused $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.
In the more than 17 years of the ensuing “war on terror,” over 7,000 U.S. service members have been killed and over 50,000 have been injured.