As Americans Celebrate Veterans Day, New Survey Reveals Misunderstandings About Veterans Abound

From patriotic parades to concerts to ceremonies, Veterans Day is filled with events across the country to honor those who have served. But as the nation celebrates veterans, the new CVN Military 101 Survey reveals that Americans’ overall knowledge about the U.S. military and veterans is low. When asked what percentage of the population has ever served in the U.S. military, nearly half (48%) of Americans answered, “not sure.” While only a fraction (2%) of the population responded with the correct answer, which is approximately 7% or roughly 19 million Americans who have served.

The CVN Military 101 Survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted by The Harris Poll, also found:

  • More than half (55%) of Americans believe the majority of U.S. veterans experience PTSD.
    • FACT: PTSD impacts 11-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, about 12% of Gulf War veterans and 15% of Vietnam veterans.
  • More than half (55%) of Americans believe anyone who serves in the military is a called a “soldier.”
    • FACT: Every military member is not a soldier. Soldiers are only in the Army. While the Army is the largest component of the U.S. military and their members are called soldiers, there are five other branches of service, and each has its own unique history and name. Military members want to be described correctly: Army (Soldier), Marine Corps (Marine), Navy (Sailor), Air Force (Airman), Space Force (Guardian), and Coast Guard (Coastguardsman).
  • Over a quarter (28%) of Americans answered “not sure” when asked how many branches there are in the U.S. military. Only 14% of Americans provided the correct response.
    • FACT: There are six branches of the U.S. Military – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the recently established Space Force.
  • Nearly 7-in-10 Americans (69%) answered “not sure” when asked how many service members leave military service and transition to civilian life each year.
    • FACT: “Every year, approximately 200,000 men and women leave U.S. military service and return to life as civilians, a process known as the military-to-civilian transition,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The experience of transitioning to civilian life varies among veterans and their families.
  • More than half (57%) of Americans answered “not sure” when asked what percentage of the U.S. military is made up of Guardsmen and Reservists.
    • FACT: There are two ways to serve in uniform – on active duty, where members’ full-time job is putting on the uniform and serving in the Armed Forces; or the Guard and Reserve, where members traditionally serve in uniform part-time, while holding a civilian job in their communities. The National Guard and Reserve make up approximately 33% of the overall military – currently, just over 800,000 individuals.

Learn more facts about veterans and the military community with CVN’s Veterans Day Pop Quiz.