The concept of the veteran as we’ve come to experience it today appears to be a thoroughly American experiment, but one that has, remarkably, gone largely if not entirely unnoticed. This is despite America having participated in numerous wars, despite the generational reverence still felt decades later for the “Greatest Generation,” and despite what Admiral Mike Mullen once termed in the midst of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as “a sea of good will” among the American public toward Post-9/11 veterans.
We ought not to be so oblivious to this history, and to its richness in showcasing the centrality of military veterans to the development of the American nation, even to political and constitutional ideas.
The veteran is, first and foremost, an experiment in civil-military relations and egalitarian democratic society. But veterans—and the questions that arise both from reincorporating ex-soldiers into civil society, and from wrestling with who cares (and to what extent) for their wounds and needs—have without doubt influenced and shaped American government, along with its public and private institutions, society, and culture. For one, the government lobbyist, today so central—and so reviled—a figure to the American legislative system, was invented, perfected, and perpetuated, by military veterans.