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Memorial Day: Among post-9/11 veterans, deepening antiwar sentiment

This Memorial Day the Iraq war is over and the Afghanistan war is winding down, but they're weighing heavily on post-9/11 veterans, 33 percent of whom said they weren't worth the cost.

By Staff writer / May 26, 2012

U.S. war veterans raise their hands in solidarity after throwing their medals towards the site of the NATO Summit in Chicago May 20, 2012. Nearly 50 veterans threw service medals into the street near the summit site in protest.

Adrees Latif/Reuters

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Los Angeles

Despite the end of the Iraq war and the scheduled drawdown in Afghanistan, this Memorial Day arrives against a backdrop of deepening – and some say more troublesome – antiwar sentiment among military veterans.

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One of the most vivid and replayed images of protesters at the NATO summit last weekend in Chicago was a group of some 40 vets lined up to toss their war medals over the chain-link fence to protest what former naval officer Leah Bolger calls “the illegal wars of both NATO and America.”

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 33 percent of post-9/11 veterans say that neither the war in Iraq nor the war in Afghanistan was "worth the cost,” and this among a highly motivated cohort who chose to serve.

What this means, says retired US Army Col. Ann Wright, who resigned from a State Department post in 2006 over US policies in Iraq, is that there is a widening gap between the government, military policies, and the soldiers that carry them out.

“Military personnel know America will always have a military, but there is growing concern over the way it is being used,” says the 29-year veteran, adding that an increasing list of concerns include “the use of torture, illegal detentions, and both soldiers and the public being lied to about the actual reasons for going into combat.”

But in contrast to the extremely vocal and visible antiwar movements of the Vietnam War era, many veterans in the all-volunteer military have found it harder to mobilize effective actions, says Cameron White, a former marine who served two tours in Iraq before joining “Iraq Veterans Against the War.”

The 32-year-old Pasadena City college student, who enlisted in 2000, says, “it’s harder to speak to fellow soldiers about their decision to join, as the onus is on us because we chose this.”

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