“Support our troops” is a common phrase, seen on lawn signs and bumper stickers across America. Veterans are welcomed home by enthusiastic crowds, and thousands of service organizations help veterans find jobs, secure housing, and heal from the experience of war.
But it wasn’t always this way. Veterans returning from Vietnam were often greeted by mobs accusing them of being “baby killers.” Veterans from Korea felt their war was forgotten and unknown. And veterans from World War I, destitute during the Great Depression, were treated like criminals by their government.
Why and how has America’s treatment of its veterans changed over time? How have the country’s citizens responded to the call of duty from one war to the next? This presentation examines America’s relationship to wars and veterans over the last century, and what shapes our current national consciousness towards veterans and the wars they fight in our name.
Jeb Wyman has been a faculty member for over twenty years at Seattle Central College. He has interviewed over seventy veterans for a collection of first-person accounts, What They Signed Up For: True Stories by Ordinary Soldiers. He is the academic director of the Clemente Course for Veterans at Antioch University, a program for veterans who study history, philosophy, art, and literature.
Speakers Bureau talks are free public presentations on history, politics, music, philosophy, and everything in between. Humanities Washington’s roster of presenters are professors, artists, activists, historians, performers, journalists, and others—all chosen not only for their expertise, but their ability to inspire discussion with people of all ages and backgrounds. All talks are free and open to the public, and each lasts about an hour. They are hosted through a wide range of organizations throughout Washington State.