Johanna Söderström
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Diverse wars and combatants
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This chapter situates the three cases: independence fighters from the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN)/South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO); guerrillas from Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19) in Colombia; and Vietnam veterans in the USA. As such, the chapter demonstrates the diversity both between and within these cases. This diversity is important, as any ensuing similarities in the political lives of these former combatants will be particularly striking. The cases are diverse in terms of both the war in general and policies at the end of the war. The specific experiences of the individuals interviewed for this book are also diverse, in terms of how they joined the armed groups, their war experiences, and their reception upon returning home. In Namibia, veterans’ programs were not planned, and the services on offer developed over time and were delivered in a compartmentalized and piecemeal fashion. In Colombia, M-19 was one of several guerrilla groups which demobilized in 1990, and the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) package included economic, educational, health, legal, and political components. In the United States, support was offered following a longer tradition of state support after war, largely used templates from earlier wars. In all three cases, the veterans expressed criticism against these programs. This chapter is important not only in terms of the research design of the book, but also as these war experiences are reinterpreted and reimagined over the course of the former combatants’ lives and therefore become sounding boards for the next chapters.

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