Remembering September 11: How America Has Changed

"Nothing will ever be the same" was our constant refrain after the terrorist attacks. But how different are we today, really?

By Reader's Digest Editors


Brian Stauffer for Reader’s Digest

We’re more respectful of the uniformed services.
In the past decade, Americans have had more confidence in the military than in any other federal institution, according to a Gallup annual poll; more than three quarters of Americans say they have great confidence in the troops.

The kudos extend to other uniformed public servants as well. “After 9/11, there was a spike in American pride in all our uniformed services, including firefighters and police officers,” says Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University who has written books on society’s views of the military. “They were newly relevant to your daily life — people realized that ‘these guys are protecting me.’ ”

But we’re failing our soldiers when they come home. The recession has hit veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan particularly hard: Their unemployment rate is at least three points higher than the national average and climbs to nearly 20 percent for male vets under the age of 24, according to a report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. Military experts blame a “crazy vet” stereotype that has persisted since at least the Vietnam War. To counter the prejudice, some companies, like Siemens, are renewing their commitment to the Veterans Preferences Act, enacted in 1944 and last modified in 1997, which encourages businesses to give special consideration to military veterans when filling jobs.

Next: Are we kinder to our fellow Americans? »

Brian Stauffer for Reader's Digest

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