PBS Presents: American Veteran


America is home to nearly 18 million military veterans, from the “Greatest Generation” to the men and women coming home from recent tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. From the beginning of the republic to the present, military service has been a transformative experience for those who have served. What is that experience, and how does it change the men and women who have joined the ranks? How have vets been perceived throughout the nation’s history? Sometimes honored, sometimes reviled, ignored or forgotten, veterans may re-enter civilian life to encounter a population that often has little or no understanding of their experience.

From the citizen soldiers who fought in the nation’s earliest conflicts, to the men and women in today’s all-volunteer armed forces, American Veteran is a rich and deeply-moving story told through personal remembrances that draw civilian viewers into an unfamiliar culture. Every voice in American Veteran, from hosts to interviewees, is that of a veteran. Their stories contribute to our evolving understanding of the relationship between Americans who have served and those who have not.

The military is part of America’s founding story — an enterprise to which, as George Washington put it, every citizen owed “his personal services.” In war and in peace, what veterans have done in our nation’s name and how they have been treated is an essential part of the American story.  “In this project, American veterans from all branches of the military share their experiences and insights,” say GBH Executive Producers Elizabeth Deane and Judith Vecchione. “We hope this will connect civilian Americans with a world that many know little about—and that veterans will feel they are truly heard.”


Tuesdays, October 26 to November 16, at 9pm on ThinkTV16

Episode 1: The Crossing

Tuesday, October 26, at 9pm on ThinkTV16

As recruits take the oath to serve, they leave the civilian world to become soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen or women and their transformation begins. “There is a very stark line between before boot camp and after boot camp,” one veteran recalls. Hosted by Drew Carey.

Episode 2: The Mission

Tuesday, November 2, at 9pm on ThinkTV16

Military life shapes servicemen and women in profound, unexpected ways. Veterans’ stories showcase the raw impact of these experiences, including a young Coast Guard recruit who helped ferry soldiers to fight and die on D-Day, a pilot based in Nevada who remotely guided bomber drones over Afghanistan, and a young Marine who rose to become the first Latina general. Hosted by Senator Tammy Duckworth.

Episode 3: The Return

Tuesday, November 9, at 9pm on ThinkTV16

Hollywood war stories seem to end with the hero’s triumphant return, but in reality, the road back to civilian life is often less certain. For some, there were ticker-tape parades; for others, protests, anger and silence. Some veterans recall the confidence they brought home, while others remember thinking, “What am I going to do now?” Hosted by Wes Studi.

Episode 4: The Reckoning

Tuesday, November 16, at 9pm on ThinkTV16

“Those who went into the service and those who did not, we are two different realities,” observes a veteran. But there are differences from veteran to veteran. Some appreciate “Thank you for your service;” others wonder if the thanks are just “bumper sticker deep.” Veterans reflecting on their service ask how we—veterans and civilians together—can move America forward. Hosted by J. R. Martinez.