American political and social history and state development cannot be understood apart from the role, place, and significance of veterans and the policies created for them.
– Suzanna Mettler (Veterans’ Policies, Veterans Politics)
In the conflicts of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, there emerged in America’s civic consciousness a new and indelible characterization — that of the modern military veteran. Following on the heels of campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the veteran experience began a sizeable if not intricate representation in books, television, and film; a spate of best-selling and often critically-acclaimed memoirs (One Bullet Away; Our Latest, Longest War), novels (The Yellow Birds), documentaries (Restrepo), television shows (Generation Kill), and feature films (The Hurt Locker) appeared, many of which centered as much on the day-to-day miseries of war as the ephemeral terrors. This tide of media — a result of America’s protracted conflicts and the reintegration of veteran service members into the public — attests to the innumerable and novel complexities surrounding modern warfare and the men and women who fight it.
…it is understood that in many countries the armed services and their respective servicemembers have upheld models of citizenship and national identity, contributing substantially to their nations’ cultural evolutions.
An Emerging Field
Concern for the post-war reintegration of returning servicemen and women is not new; since World War I, military veterans and their advocates have long invigorated the socio-political discourse dealing with such issues as post-traumatic stress, physical injury and convalescence, family restoration, post-military career development, and the effectiveness of government institutions appointed to aid in such things. In consideration of the larger significance of military service, it is understood that in many countries the armed services and their respective servicemembers have upheld models of citizenship and national identity, contributing substantially to their nations’ cultural evolutions. Notwithstanding, the study and new scholarly investigation of veterans’ experiences at home and at war continue to be housed in larger disciplines, namely history, social work, psychology, and many others. Fortunately, such scholarly work performed under the auspices of these departments continues because researchers maintain that the veteran experience is itself a viable area for research and teaching. Nether is scholarship in the field confined to the United States; other nations, especially English-speaking democracies such as the United Kingdom and Australia, grapple with these ideas as well. In light of these realities, it is clear that such study deserves its own demarcation.
Understanding Veterans Studies
As a field of study, (Veterans Studies) attempts to provide a more informed understanding of the culture of military service and the lasting effects of this service on veterans, their family members, and society as a whole.
Veterans Studies examines the experiences of military veterans, including mental health, combat, post-deployment reintegration, family life, and the use of government institutions that serve veterans. It is inherently interdisciplinary, encompassing literature, composition and rhetoric, political science, military history, and psychology, among others. As a field of study, it attempts to provide a more informed understanding of the culture of military service and the lasting effects of this service on veterans, their family members, and society as a whole.
Following renewed interest in and necessity for the field, several university departments and programs came into being, including the following: The Veterans Studies program at Eastern Kentucky University is the only program in the country to offer an Associates in General Studies with a concentration in Veterans Studies. The Department of Military and Veterans Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis is the first fully funded academic department focused on Veterans Studies and offering a minor in the field. While Arizona State University (ASU) offers a certificate in “Veterans, Society, and Service,” the ASU Office of Veteran and Military Academic Engagement serves the campus community by supporting teaching and scholarship in the field; the office’s goal is not only to promote Veterans Studies, but also to perpetuate communication between military, civilian, and academic cultures.
The Veterans in Society Conference
The Veterans in Society (ViS) Conference was established in 2013 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Founded to encourage research and community engagement between institutions and services, there have been four annual ViS conferences between 2013 and 2018. After the 2015 conference, the conference schedule was changed to a biannual schedule; soon after the 2018 conference, it was announced that future conferences would rotate through institutions throughout the country.
Journal of Veterans Studies
The Journal of Veterans Studies (JVS) is an online, refereed, open access, international, interdisciplinary academic journal (ISSN 2470–4768) focused on veterans studies. It was founded in November 2015 by Mariana Grohowski, PhD, with the first publication released in July of 2016. Grohowski states that she founded the journal after three years of receiving article rejections based on the focus of her own research on women veterans, and that she noticed a lack of referred publication venues for interdisciplinary research and writing on the experiences of military veterans.
JVS’ objective is to facilitate the scholarly investigation of military veterans’ and their families’ experiences, specifically after the completion of military service. Publications focus on the consequences of combat exposure, the reintegration process from wartime to peacetime, and the partnership with the system of institutions that shape the veteran experience. While JVS accepts multimodal submissions in multiple formats, it seeks to produce collaborative research between such disciplines as literature, history, composition and rhetoric, and the social and behavioral sciences. There is no fee to submit or publish to the journal, and it maintains an open access policy. Currently, JVS is published periodically throughout the year. Publication announcements of individual submissions and full issues are shared through social media channels and directly on the journal’s website. In addition to the Journal of Veterans Studies, a formal association with the goal of promoting the interdisciplinary work of Veterans Studies in academic, community, and literary settings, was established in May of 2019: The Veterans Studies Association, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The intention is to incorporate the Journal of Veterans Studies as the association’s flagship publication, and the Veterans in Society Conference as its primary conference venue.