The Washington Post

Few regrets: 89% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets would do it all over again

Numbers from a nationwide poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation tell the story of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans transitioning to civilian life. (Sohail Al-Jamea/The Washington Post)

The 1 percent of Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are unified more than anything else by one attitude: They have few regrets.

Nearly nine in 10 say that even considering all they know about the military, they’d still choose to join if they could make the decision again, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. That view wavers little among those who paid a bigger price for their service: 92 percent among those who were seriously injured, 88 percent whose physical health is worse, 79 percent who say the wars are not worth fighting, and even 90 percent who did things in war that made them feel “guilty.”

The near unanimous confidence – rare agreement for opinion surveys – contrasts with splintered views over whether the wars were worth fighting and President Obama and Bush’s leadership. On those issues, veterans break along partisan lines more common among fellow citizens in the general public.

But these divisions may not factor as much into veterans personal assessments of value. On the practical front, nearly half have taken advantage of the GI bill, and eight in 10 feel the skills they learned in the military will be useful in the civilian job market (though their unemployment rate is higher than average).

Personal conviction is important as well. Fully 87 percent feel proud about what they did in the war – 51 percent feel this way “often.” That pride also comes with a rare distinction, given 99 percent of Americans did not volunteer.

Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report

Here’s more from the Post-Kaiser survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans:

For recent veterans, a legacy of pride and pain.

Wanted: Heroes. Trying to piece together the puzzle of veterans’ unemployment proves difficult.

Key findings from the poll.

Interactive poll results and more on how the survey was conducted.

Poll details: The Post-Kaiser survey was conducted over the phone from Aug. 1 to Dec. 15, 2013, among a random national sample of 819 active duty military and veterans who served in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. The overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points. 

Scott Clement is the polling manager at The Washington Post, specializing in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.

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