Veteran Experiences: Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom

The Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were both part of the larger Global War on Terror, which was sparked by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The goal of the war was to eradicate terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and establish stable governments in both countries. The War in Afghanistan (also known as Operation Enduring Freedom, or OEF) lasted from October 2001-December 2014. The War in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom, or OIF; and Operation New Dawn, or OND) spanned March 2003-December 2011. 

Who Are OEF/OIF Veterans?

OEF/OIF Veterans are also known as Post-9/11 Veterans. According to a report by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, “as of 2016, there are 4.2 million Post-9/11 Veterans of which 2.8 million served only during Post-911.”

Post-9/11 Veterans’ Issues

The War on Terror defined the first two decades of the new millennium, and many of the issues facing Post-9/11 Veterans continue to be very prevalent today. These include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI accounted for around 22% of total casualties in OEF and OIF. TBI is characterized by “structural injury and/or physiological disruption of brain function” as a result of physical trauma. Moderate or severe TBI can have long-term consequences for individuals affected by it including amnesia, cognitive impairments, depression, personality and/or behavior changes, and more.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The VA estimates that 11%-22% of Post-9/11 Veterans suffer from PTSD each year. PTSD can be caused by a number of things, from combat in a war zone to military sexual trauma. If left untreated, PTSD can have serious consequences for veterans’ mental health and their lives, including placing them at greater risk of homelessness.

  • Physical Injury and/or Disease. In addition to the inherent danger of injury and disability due to combat, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan came with its own set of specific health hazards, including exposure to burn pit smoke and infectious diseases related to the region (including malaria, brucellosis, shigella, West Nile virus, leishmaniasis, and more).

  • Difficulty Readjusting to Civilian Life. Research indicates that Post-9/11 Veterans are more likely than their Pre-9/11 counterparts to face challenges when returning to civilian life (47% versus 21%, respectively). Many reported feeling isolated or having a hard time finding employment after leaving the military. 

National Veterans Homeless Support seeks to eliminate homelessness among veterans in Central Florida and nationwide. NVHS takes a proactive, intervention-based approach to homelessness by meeting homeless veterans where they are and helping them from there. Through programs like Search and Rescue Outreach, NVHS helps homeless veterans get the supplies they need to survive, connects them with support and resources, and helps them transition off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing. If you’re able, consider supporting our mission by donating or signing on as a volunteer