“To Put Others Before Yourself”: Volunteerism and Mental Health in US Veterans’ Projects

  • 1 State Ethnographic Collections Saxony, Dresden, Germany
Frank Usbeck

Abstract

The post-9/11 wars produced a new generation of US veterans. As the military campaigns dragged on over extended periods, public discourse on the wars refueled ongoing discussions from the Vietnam era about veterans’ social and psychological wellbeing. The public increasingly voiced concerns about psychological injuries such as posttraumatic stress, veterans’ postwar reintegration struggles, and suicides. This article will discuss two NGOs organized by and for veterans to analyze how their activism responds to the sense of social crisis prevalent in these public debates on veterans’ affairs. It will present the projects’ online self-representation and their documentation in activist scholarship and journalism to carve out how civic engagement in veterans’ affairs challenges the traditional myth of American individualism to promote volunteerism and community service as vehicles for reintegration, promoting – and enacting – the civil-military social contract.

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