NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Vietnam Veterans: Who They Are And How They Are Faring

November 16, 2000

A growing number of researchers, scholars and prominent veterans are seeking to revise the public stereotype of the men and women who fought in the Vietnam conflict. They reject the image of those veterans as social misfits who have been physically and psychologically scarred - - and who can't hold their marriages together or keep a job.

"The vast number of people who went to Vietnam returned and just got on with their lives," says Steve Maxner, a Texas Tech University historian. The image of the Vietnam vet as dysfunctional "is a myth," he says.

  • Seventy-five percent of the 3 million men and women who served in Southeast Asia from 1964 to 1975 were volunteers -- 88 percent of them white and 11 percent black.
  • Unemployment among Vietnam veterans was just 2.7 percent in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, well below the national rate of 3.9 percent.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs says that no more than 20,000 Vietnam veterans may have killed themselves -- while other researchers put the figures at 4,000 to 9,000.
  • A Navy study of Vietnam prisoners of war -- who suffered as much stress as anyone who served there -- found few serious psychological or physical problems among the group.

Researchers report, in such books as Stolen Valor, that thousands of people who claim to be veterans traumatized by the war never served in Vietnam, or lied about their experiences in order to collect government benefits.

Source: Dave Moniz, "Dispelling Myths About Vietnam Veterans," USA Today, November 16, 2000.


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