So I'm wondering if there's such a think as "military guilt": an often unacknowledged awareness that veterans are often getting the short end of the stick from society. I certainly feel this to a certain extent.
So how does this military guilt play out? I think one way it comes out is a reluctance to criticize people who have suffered in combat. I'm thinking of the recent flap about Wes Clark's remarks to the effect that McCain's experience in Viet Nam as a prisoner of war doesn't necessarily translate into a qualification for being president. There was this aura of indignation around people's reaction to Clark: how dare he. Of course, Clark was right: being taken prisoner or any other particular wartime experience is not necessarily a qualification to be president. But to point this out is somehow supposed to be deeply disrespectful. I wonder if there's some sort of subconscious transaction going on here.
Of course, "military guilt" didn't stop Republicans from mocking Kerry with purple heart band-aids. So the phenomenon certainly isn't universal.