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Veterans, globalized: veterans and their societies in international perspective.

26-28 March 2018

Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center 

Roanoke, Virginia, USA

Abstracts of research

Societies' responses to veterans

Panel 4

Tuesday, 10:30-11:45.  Monroe Room

“Thank you for your service”: An analysis of a modern social convention

Doug Jordan

Joint Special Operations University

“Thank you for your service” is a phrase that is said in polite conversation to military service members and veterans. Why do some people say it and others do not? What are the range of reactions to being the recipient of this phrase?

This small pilot project used an online survey to query veterans as well as the person communicating the sentiment, to gather data about the exchange and what each person’s thoughts are within a defined context. The data was analyzed to identify patterns and indications of how this social convention is perceived and occurs within society.

It is my belief that this research project has the potential to inform the community about ways that the transmitter of the social convention as well as the recipient perceive the purpose and value of this communicative interaction..

Fronterlebnis, war trauma and the de-construction of German veteran identity

Howard Hastings

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Since the 19th century, the notion of combat experience as at once transformative and ineffable has been central to popular constructions of war, often affirming veteran identity and lending it a unique political authority. To examine how this authority is conditioned by the distance between civilian and military experience of war and to consider how variation in that distance affects veteran identity/authority, I examine the writings of two prominent German veterans of WWI and WWII — respectively, Ernst Jünger and Wolfgang Borchert — and the very different social, political and policy environments in which their writing emerged.  For the former, the experience of war is uniquely the veteran’s and affirmative, whereas for the latter, as member of a disbanded Wehrmacht in an occupied Germany, it is a trauma borne by veteran and civilian alike.

Why do Dutch veterans not feel appreciated by society?

Marjolein van der Werf  

Jeoffrey van Woensel

Dutch Veterans Institute


In the 1980s, Dutch veterans who fought in the decolonization war in Indonesia in the late 1940s sought recognition and appreciation for their contributions to the nation. Their actions led to the first official Dutch veterans policy in 1990. Since then, this policy aims to ensure quality care for veterans and their relatives for deployment related needs and to increase public recognition and appreciation for the efforts and possible sacrifices veterans have made for their country.

Research by the Dutch Veterans Institute shows that about half of the Dutch veterans do not feel appreciated by society, whereas a large majority of the public says they appreciate veterans. This gap and the research of the Dutch Veterans Institute to understand this gap is the subject of this paper.

Exploring representations and understandings of British veterans in UK society

Rita Phillips

Mark Burgess

Vincent Connelly

Oxford Brookes University


Previous research indicated that the British public has erroneous and negative perceptions of the UK Armed Forces veterans. To investigate this issue an open-ended word-association task was conducted with 234 UK participants. Participants were asked to provide three initial responses to the word “Veteran” and to evaluate these in accordance with perceived prototypically on a 5-point Likert scale.


The total of 704 associations were grouped into 14 thematic clusters. Hierarchical Evocation Modeling indicated “Victimization,” “War,” “Experience & Age,” “Service Category,” and “Heroism” to be defining core-clusters. Socio-demographic characteristics accounted for little variance in cluster evocation. A Principal Component Analysis revealed that whilst ‘War’ and “Victimization” were associated, “Heroism” was associated with “Positive-“ and “Negative Characterization.”


Thus, the veteran is a uniform, well-defined and widely shared representation in UK society. Whilst people believe the experience of war makes victims, the veteran personality is held accountable for being labeled a hero.

This Veterans in Society Conference is based at
in collaboration with 
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