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Take time today to get to know some of our veterans

Nov 11, 2015

The United States military is currently involved in the longest period of sustained, armed conflict in our nation’s history.

Yet only around 0.5% of the U.S. population is on active military duty.

Contrast that with 9% of the U.S. population who served during WWII, and you can understand how there’s been a growing gap between those who haven't served in the military and those who have.

Listen to how these post 9/11 vets from Michigan describe some of the more awkward interactions they’ve had with people:

This gap between those who served in the military and those who haven’t is one big reason we chose to do a series on veterans for the week of July 4th earlier this year.

So here’s your chance to get to know some of our veterans, and what life has been like for them since they returned home.

You can find all the pieces in our Beyond the Battlefield series here.

And for a quick snapshot of the stories, here’s the Cliffs Notes version:

*Close to 73,000 post-9/11 veterans live in Michigan. Go to this page to meet several veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In videos and text, they share what life was like when they came home.

*World War II ended 70 years ago. Here are three stories from WWII veterans living in Michigan. Lester Graham started with a love story.

*Steve Carmody produced a piece on Michigan’s “vetrepreneurs.” One observer notes that “many veterans start businesses because they are tired of taking orders from other people.”

*In this piece, Christopher Bamberg, who served in the Navy in Iraq, says we must do more than say ‘thank you’ to veterans in Michigan.

*Rebecca Williams spoke with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who were exposed to burn pits during the war and who worry about their health. Researchers say we need to know more.

*Many veterans face unique challenges when they get home. When vets get into trouble, “veteran courts” can help. Kate Wells told a story about a vet, a cop, and the crime that brought them together.

*Sometimes, post-traumatic stress can impact daily life for some veterans. Jennifer Guerra has a story of how one family, where both parents served in the military, work through this challenge.

*Veterans live all over the state. Not all of them live near a facility that can help them. Lindsey Smith has a piece on the technology helping to cut wait times for veterans hoping to see their doctors.

*While we try to build relationships with our veterans, there’s no way to replicate that bond that veterans have with each other. Kyle Norris profiled one group of veterans who bond over a shared love for running.

*A sense of community for many veterans is an important thing to foster. Listen to Iraq war vet Sherman Powell explain how a student group at the University of Michigan has helped him and many other post-9/11 veterans.

*Jason Hale, an Army Reservist and a former Michigan National Guard member who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, shared an essay with us. He wants you to know that as a veteran, “I don’t need special treatment or handouts.  All I need you to know is that I’m not broken because of war, I’m better because of it.”

*Unemployment rates among veterans is something many programs try to tackle. Tracy Samilton explored one program that tries to help veterans establish careers, not just jobs.

*And finally, when it comes to talking with veterans, Erin Smith, a psychologist with the Veterans Administration Health Systems in Ann Arbor, gave us a few tips on Stateside with Cynthia Canty about what we often get wrong when talking to veterans. The biggest takeaway: respect the level of relationship you have with someone. If you're close with them, they might be willing to share more with you. If you're not close with them, understand that, just like any other relationship, they're not likely to share personal details with you.

"Just listen to what they're willing to share and respect what they're willing to share," says Smith.