What young vets couldn’t wait to do when they got home

“Half the Battle” asked young veterans what they missed most during their military service. Here’s what some of them told us they looked forward to doing when they returned to the United States:


Photo by stevendepolo, via Flickr 
Many veterans told “Half The Battle” that they looked forward to the luxury of indoor plumbing upon returning home – proper showers and toilets were sparse during deployments. 

– “Drinking beer and going to Taco Bell was what I looked forward to the most. We used to discuss Taco Bell in detail on patrol. All you’ve got is talking, really. We would talk in detail about every Taco Bell menu item. Just taking a shower was a big deal too, you know. I didn’t take a shower for seven months in Afghanistan. When I got home, I wanted to take a shower, drink a beer in the shower, and then go to Taco Bell right afterwards. If you’re wondering if I followed through on all of that, I most definitely did. To the letter.” – Ibrahim Hashi, U.S. Marines

– “Oh man. I couldn’t wait to go to Wendy’s. I just wanted a Wendy’s cheeseburger. That’s practically all I thought about in Iraq. We used to have so many conversations. That’s what we missed the most: the food.” – Jennifer Leonard, U.S. Army

– “I mostly missed my family and friends. I looked forward to the freedom of driving where I want when I want. I looked forward to the freedom of moving about without having to carry my weapon, all my gear, and have a battle buddy” – Hickory Smith, U.S. Army National Guard

– “I really wanted to take a steaming hot shower. While I was deployed, the showers had treated water, so there was chlorine in it. I never felt fully clean.”- Jessica Giusti, U.S. Marines

– “Using a real bathroom. Digging holes in the desert is no bueno.” – Jimmy McRedmond, U.S. Navy

– “The one thing I wanted to do was go on a long road trip after being stuck on a rock for 4.5 years. A few months later, I was able to take a road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which was great.” – Christopher Navarra, U.S. Navy

– “The biggest thing was being able to leave more than a three mile radius … driving past 10 miles an hour, having indoor plumbing, I don’t know stuff like that, little things. I would say the more normal things in life [I] was more appreciative of.” – Zach Cronauer, U.S. Army Reserve

– “Can’t wait to have a drink of beer. Can’t wait to sleep in a bed.” – Evan Keller, U.S. Marines

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This project, produced by journalism students at American University, explores the experiences of young veterans as they transition from soldiers to citizens.

Word Clouds From Veteran Survey

What did you miss the most about home?
What did you miss2

Why did you enlist?
Why did you enlist in the military.

From soldier to civilian - what problems did you face?
Challenge of transitioning to civilian life

What difficulties did you face upon returning to college?
Difficulties on returning to college

Word Cloud From Non-Veteran Survey

What challenges do vets face coming home? Non-vets

Top 5 questions veterans told ‘Half the Battle’ they hate being asked:

- Did you kill anyone?
- Do you have PTSD?
- Did you see anybody die?

- Did you get shot at?

- Was it hot?

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