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Retirees more downbeat than today's troops about wars

Apr. 8, 2013 - 08:12AM   |  
Military retirees are more pessimistic about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than troops in uniform today, according to the most recent Military Times Poll.
Military retirees are more pessimistic about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than troops in uniform today, according to the most recent Military Times Poll. (DoD)
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Military retirees are more pessimistic about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than troops in uniform today, according to the most recent Military Times Poll.

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Military retirees are more pessimistic about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than troops in uniform today, according to the most recent Military Times Poll.

For example, retirees are more likely to want most U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan this year, which is earlier than called for under current plans.

Some retirees suggest the sheer length of the war is troubling to an older generation of veterans.

“A lot of us thought we'd be finished by now,” said William Knepshield, a retired Air Force master sergeant who left active duty in 2003. “I think a lot of retirees are probably a little apprehensive that the war has been going on for so long. Many of the wars that we were involved in were relatively short term.”

Retirees also are more likely to describe themselves as conservative and Republican, are more critical of President Obama and more downbeat on the ultimate success of the war in Iraq compared with today's troops, according to the poll.

Those are just some of the key issues on which retirees' views differ significantly from troops who remain in the service today, according to the poll of nearly 3,000 retirees and more than 2,000 active-duty troops.

The issue of open service by gays in uniform also reveals a significant age gap, as retirees are more likely to question the repeal of “don't ask, don't tell.”

Specifically, when asked whether gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, about 43 percent of retirees said no, compared with just 24 percent of active-duty troops.

The survey also suggests that qualifying for 20-year military retirement benefits doesn't necessarily mitigate post-service financial concerns. About 41 percent of retirees said they are worried about their families' finances, not much less than the 49 percent of active-duty troops who said the same.

Retirees have more concerns about today's military readiness, with some 70 percent saying they believe “today's military is stretched too thin to be effective.” That compares with 59 percent of active-duty troops.

The survey also suggests that the sense of isolation from the civilian world that many troops feel doesn't fade after leaving service. Retirees are more likely than today's troops to agree with the statement that “the military community has little in common with the rest of the country and most civilians do not understand the military.”

J.D. Kump, a 68-year-old retired Air Force lieutenant colonel living in Florida, said many retirees find the transition to civilian workplaces difficult because employers lack the military's clearly defined rank structures.

Moreover, he said the general lack of familiarity with military life and its sacrifices among civilians may not be readily apparent to active-duty troops while they're living on base or inside tightly knit military communities that provide little exposure to civilians in their day-to-day lives.

“I think that contrast is greater when you retire,” Kump said.

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