Difference of Receipt of Gratitude: A Comparative Analysis of the Experiences of Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm Veterans

  • Marie Rivera


Scholarship has long understudied the veteran population

in the United States in part because civilians generally lack the military exposure to adequately understand the lived experiences of veterans. Few studies analyze how the receipt of gratitude by the U.S. public is internalized by veterans, as well as the ways in which their experiences “returning home” depend on the war in which the veteran served. Namely, Vietnam veterans were ostracized upon returning to the U.S. civilian life they once knew so well. They lacked widespread social acceptance due to negative opinions regarding the Vietnam War. Reintegration into society became challenging and led to internalized schemas among veterans that their military participation was morally wrong. This contrasts with the social support attributed to Operation Desert Storm veterans. Operation Desert Storm (ODS) was a war in which American causalities were at an all-time low for the first time in U.S. war history (Hillen 1993). Civilians’ opinions were less harmful and contributed to the veterans being welcomed back with relatively open arms, though gratitude also is subjective and can be perceived differently by individuals within each cohort.