Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America

by William Pencak, Editor


They have been celebrated for valor and ostracized for participating in unpopular wars. They have received the thanks of a grateful nation in the form of national holidays, numerous veterans' associations, and the GI Bill, and yet have suffered through adversity, from homelessness to post traumatic stress syndrome. They are the nation’s veterans, and whether career soldiers or ordinary citizens called to duty, their stories must be heard.

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Cover image for Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America

October 2009


Pages 757
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Military History/Home Front

A comprehensive encyclopedia that describes the experiences of American veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present.

From the American Revolution to today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America captures the experiences and lives of our nation’s veterans in a comprehensive, unprecedented way. It is the first major reference work focused exclusively on an American soldier’s view of military life during war and the often difficult return to civilian life and peacetime afterward.

Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America comprises over 100 insightful entries that include major examinations of the American Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Gulf, Afghan, and Iraq Wars, plus brief reviews of other conflicts. In addition, it highlights the specific experiences of POW, MIAs, and their families, as well as African Americans, women, and American Indian soldiers. Additional entries focus on key historic figures like Theodore Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur, veterans’ organizations like the American Legion and the VFW, legislative initiatives, and the full range of memorials and monuments dedicated to our fighting men and women.


  • Presents essays from 30 contributing scholars from a variety of disciplines, many who are themselves veterans
  • Contains 35 primary documents, including poems by and about and tributes to veterans, recent Congressional testimony by veterans about their problems, and descriptions of their activities
  • Offers a timeline of relevant events, including founding dates of major veterans organizations and dates of major veterans legislation
  • Provides illustrations of veterans engaging in political or ceremonial activity and illustrations of monuments and memorials
  • Includes a bibliography of both general items and those relevant for each war/conflict


  • The first comprehensive work on the experiences of the nation's veterans throughout U.S. history
  • Focuses on current conditions and recent events, including the scandal involving the horrific conditions for patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
  • Looks at the full range of veterans, including the disabled, veterans from different ethnic backgrounds, gay veterans, and those who served in the Coast Guard
  • Describes a number of programs targeted at helping veterans reintegrate themselves into society after concluding their service
Author Info

William Pencak is professor of history and Jewish studies at Penn State University. His published works include For God and Country: The American Legion, 1919-1941; War, Politics & Revolution in Provincial Massachusetts, and Jews and Gentiles in Early America: 1654-1800, which was runner-up for the National Book Award in American Jewish History.



". . . this is a model reference work and a worthwhile purchase."—ARBAonline

"Comprehensive, well presented, and grounded throughout in deep research, this work would make a solid contribution to research libraries. The two appendixes, on the other hand, would be best used in public libraries."—Library Journal

"In this timely set, editor Pencak, professor of history at Penn State University, has produced a remarkable reference for anyone seeking to understand the struggle of veterans both historically and in the present day. . . . bold text, excellent organization, broad coverage, and even scholarship make this a first-rate work. These volumes serve as a great reference for veterans and those looking for more information on the topic and are recommended for larger public and academic libraries."—Booklist

"Editor Pencak (history, Penn State U.) and 30 contributors have compiled a comprehensive two-volume encyclopedia on America's veterans. It contains entries on all major conflicts in U.S. history, a timeline of relevant events, images of veterans in political or ceremonial activities, key historic figures, veterans organizations, and numerous primary source documents such as poems by and tributes to veterans. It also includes specific coverage of POWs, MIAs, and their families, as well as African American, women, and Native American soldiers."—Reference & Research Book News

"The wealth of information in the 100 entries will help anyone researching any of the wars in which the US has been involved, from what are considered the just and supported wars, like the Revolutionary War, to the unpopular and condemned wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. . . . Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general

"This unique examination of an important part of American culture is highly recommended for both academic and public libraries."—Lawrence Looks at Books

" ambitious work of great value to students of American military history, and to the study of U.S. history generally. Pencak has a remarkably expansive view of America's veterans, their experiences, and their impact on the nation. The essays incorporate the recent scholarship on veterans well. It is a rich and valuable reference work essential for any academic or public library."—The Journal of Military History

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