The Other 1%

Jake Tapper, Richard Coolidge & Sherisse Pham
Power Players

Political Punch

Matt Flavin is part of the one percent. No, not necessarily that one percent -- Flavin served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes him a minority in this country.

"One percent of the American population serves in uniform," said Flavin, who is not only a veteran, but also the former director of the White House's Office of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy.

In 2005 and 2006, Flavin was attached to a SEAL team in Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq gathering intelligence. He later served in eastern Afghanistan, and not long afterward came to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The recent White House dinner honoring Iraq veterans was, as the president said, an opportunity for the country to express its gratitude for the men and women that served in Iraq, to welcome them home. But as Flavin knows all too well, coming home, is not always easy.

"I think everyone comes home changed," said Flavin, adding that it took him some time to transition back to life outside of a war zone.

"You don't sleep well, you think a lot about what you've been through, you think a lot about what you've come home to," said the retired navy officer.

"A lot of people have that story about going to get a cup of coffee and, you know, the person in front of them being upset about the foam on their latte ... not being foamy enough. And just being totally disgusted about being back."

The story illustrates the disconnect between the Americans who have escaped these wars untouched, and those who have not been so fortunate. The divide can be particularly painful for those who have lost loved ones. One father of a man who received an award posthumously told us the American people would rather think about anything other than the men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Flavin says for those who are on active duty, it can be tough to turn around and see people across the United States simply living their regular lives.

"It's hard not to be a little bit angry when you see the tremendous sacrifice that some have paid in this war," said Flavin, while others have been completely unaffected.