most veterans, like most people in the military, aren't in direct combat functions in the recent wars. It's one thing to be involved in a war from miles away from the actual action, but it is totally different to be within small-arms range or closer to a person that you are being asked to kill. It's totally different when you actually hear the sounds and see the sights of a person that you shot dying when you find their mangled bodies after the firefight is over and go search the area for dead and wounded. It's easy to feel proud for what you did in the war when you don't have any real connection to what you did.
I've never seen or met a combat veteran who supported or liked war. As a result, the most vehement anti-war folks tend to be combat veterans. They've been there, they've done it, and they completely understand how messed up war is.
I post a lot on a conservative forum and usually my post lean hard towards the anti-war direction. I get called out for being unpatriotic and, it is often said to me that I should be like most "honorable" combat vets and keep my mouth shut about what I did in the war. To me, that is dangerous and is misleading. It gives people the false impression that I did something glorious or some great patriotic service to our country by doing what I did in Iraq. The veterans who have never experienced combat first hand (and who never developed a distaste for it) stand up and waive the flag like they are some sort of hero and proclaim how glorious war and military intervention is. The media and our government officials focus on terms like "surgical strike" to mislead the public into thinking that nobody is unnecessarily killed in combat. Our government bans the media coverage of caskets returning from the war and images of war mangled bodies being thrown into the spotlight on the news.
It's easy to believe that war is a glorious and patriotic function when all you see are impressive images of military strength, shiny uniforms, and high-tech equipment. The only images of the Iraqis that you see are those of smiling and cheering children and harmless looking adults. The American public doesn't see the mangled children and heartbroken parents that this war produces.
Again, I've never seen or met a combat veteran who supported or liked war. Those who have actually been there and experienced it want to be the furthest they can be away from it.
I hate being thanked for my service when anyone finds out that I'm a veteran. If people knew what I did, I doubt they'd be thanking me for anything.
My wife and kids did something that really upset me yesterday (veterans day). My wife meant well, but she had my oldest daughter (who is 4) come over to me and say "happy veterans day, daddy". I have a lot of mixed feelings about the war and what I want my kids to know. Actually, I don't think they are mixed at all. I don't want them to know a thing about it. I would prefer that they never knew I was in the Army I and I don't want them to make the connection that I was ever in a place where I shot and killed anyone. I don't want to have to explain any of that to my kids and I don't want to hear their questions about why I did what I did. It wasn't justified and the people of Iraq weren't a threat to us. I don't want them to think that I was some sort of a murdering machine or a monster and I don't want their perception of me as a kind and loving person spoiled by what I was a part of in the past. Fortunately, at age 4, my daughter has no concept of what war is or that someone could be capable of killing another person. I'm not ready for that one and I have no idea how to deal with it when she figures it out.