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Oppressed Minority Veteran

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"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States."
Frederick Douglass being overly optimistic in an 1863 speech

Bob, a member of a minority group, enlists in the military. He acquits himself well, and may even gain a reputation as a war hero. After returning to civilian life, however, Bob's minority status relegates him to second-class citizenship in his homeland, despite the risks he has taken on his country's behalf.

Unfortunately Truth in Television, as seen in the cases of German-Jewish veterans in Nazi Germany and African-American servicemen in the pre-Civil Rights Movement United States.

Compare No Place for a Warrior, which deals with the general mistreatment of veterans in civilian life, not necessarily tied to their minority status. See also Dude, Where's My Respect?.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, during the war against the Ishvalans, members of the Amestris military with Ishvalan heritage were rounded up and imprisoned, regardless of their rank or how distinguished their record was. (And in at least some versions, then became subjects of very lethal human experimentation.) Both the manga and the Brotherhood version of the anime have the character Major Miles, the right-hand man of General Armstrong at the legendary Briggs fortress. Miles is a quarter Ishvalan and must hide his heritage, as he would still be subject to these orders despite the fact that the war is long over and how small a part of his heritage it is.
  • Attack on Titan: A major element of the Marley arc, which focuses on the Warrior Unit returning home after being deployed on the front lines of a 4-year war. While hailed as the heroes that brought Marley victory, they are second-class citizens with none of the rights promised to their families in exchange for their service. Marleyan soldiers treat their Eldian comrades with cruelty and disdain, and Reiner is humiliated and verbally abused by his superiors when consulted about his knowledge of Paradis.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: Jakob Eisenhardt is another German-Jewish example, who was a decorated veteran of World War I. His family's persecution by the Nazi regime provides a substantial portion of the Freudian Excuse of Jakob's son, Magneto.
  • An Ambiguously Jewish concentration camp prisoner in Maus claims to have fought in World War I and earned "medals from the Kaiser", and his own son is a soldier now. According to Vladek, the guards beat him to death when they got tired of his complaints.
  • In Young Avengers, Eli Bradley's grandfather Isaiah was a test subject for Project Rebirth, and the first man to put on the mantle of Captain America. Using his serum-granted abilities, he helped liberate a concentration camp. After the war, the government didn't want to admit that a black man was essential to the success of Project Rebirth, so Isaiah was locked up for stealing the costume and spent years languishing in a military prison. When he was finally released, the serum had destroyed his brain, and his medical needs have impoverished his family.

  • The 24th features an entire company of black US soldiers going through racial prejudice in the Deep South during World War I. First Sergeant Hayes, a disillusioned veteran of the American-Spanish War who claims to have fought by Theodore Roosevelt's side, watches Roosevelt rise up to the presidency; taking all the credit while conveniently forgetting all the sacrifices made by black soldiers.
  • The Barber in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator is a Jewish World War I veteran living in a parody of Nazi Germany.
  • The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue of Flyboys states that Eugene Skinner, the Lafayette Escadrille's black member (who had been a boxer based out of Paris at the start of World War I) left the French Army to enlist in the U.S. Army when the US joined the war in 1917. Being black, he was not allowed to fly despite his proven ability. He subsequently resigned from the Army and flew for the U.S. Post Office.
  • At the end of Geronimo: An American Legend, after the famous Native American warrior Geronimo surrenders to the Americans, all Apache and other Natives serving as scouts or in other offices (including Chato, a major character instrumental in getting Geronimo to surrender) are stripped of their rank and forcibly relocated. The final scene shows the few remaining tribesmen in a train being relocated, and a despondent Chato concludes that Geronimo was right to fight the Americans and that everything they told him were lies.
  • Flags of Our Fathers, which follows the men who were believed at the time to have planted the second flag on Mount Suribachi, the surviving men are brought to the United States to promote war bond drive, and during a stop, Ira Hayes, a Native American (who, incidentally, was the only one on the tour who actually was in the famous photo), goes missing right before an appearance at a stadium. One of the other men goes to look for him and finds him angrily shouting and swinging a chair at a group of policemen trying to restrain him outside a bar. He points towards the bartender saying "he wouldn't serve me!", the bartender replies "we don't serve Indians." The Navy corpsman who served alongside the 5th Marine Division drags away a furious Ira, and tells him to forget the whole thing.
  • Dead Presidents shows the hardships and discrimination African-American veterans of the Vietnam War faced.
  • King Arthur (2004): The knights are all descendants of a people conquered by the Roman Empire and given the choice to serve in the Roman military or be wiped out. After they served their required amount of time, they chose to join Arthur in fighting the Saxons rather than return home and live the rest of their lives as this trope.
  • Max is a film about Adolf Hitler right after World War One meeting Jewish veteran Max Rothman, who had lost an arm due to a war wound and is now an art dealer. The film opens with a title card stating (truthfully) how over half a million German Jewish men served in Germany's armed forces. Max sees the danger in Hitler, though he attempts to steer him away from politics and support his art instead. Obviously, in a very foregone conclusion Hitler joins the (then small) Nazi Party, with Max being beaten to death by antisemitic thugs, encapsulating the tragedy of how German Jewish veterans were treated in the end (plus all other Jews from Germany or elsewhere rounded up in the Holocaust).

  • Reunion is about a Jewish boy growing up in post-WWI Germany until his parents send him to a relative in America. When the Nazi Party starts seizing power, a goon stands next to his parents' shop to warn people not to buy from Jews. In response, his father wears his entire military uniform and medals won in the war and stands next to the goon, humiliating him into leaving.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of The Unit, Jonas's father is very belatedly awarded the Silver Star for destroying a North Korean tank via Insert Grenade Here. The medal was not initially awarded due to the elder Mr. Blane being A) an enlisted man and B) black. Jonas later explains how when they got home to the Jim Crow South later, he and his father were accosted by a pair of probable Klansmen for speaking to a white woman (Mr. Blane had asked her to go into a whites-only store to get Jonas a soda). Jonas initially says Mr. Blane talked them down, but later confirms to his daughter privately that the toughs assaulted him, and he killed them both with his KA-BAR knife and stole their truck to get himself and Jonas out of town.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Measure Of A Man", it is established that Data has won numerous medals and awards from Starfleet, but he is still put on trial by them to determine if he is merely property for them to disassemble and study strictly on Commander Bruce Maddox's say-so.
  • Anne Frank: The Whole Story: Otto Frank's service record from WWI will not prevent him from being deported by the Nazis. He can apply for Theresienstadt, a "model camp" specifically built for Jewish war veterans, but he knows perfectly well that the conditions are still horrible, while the rest of his family would be sent to even worse camps. The SD officer who arrests them does show some mild deference when he sees Otto's old war equipment, addressing Otto by his former rank, ordering the other soldiers to wait outside and telling him he can take his time to gather his family's belongings.
  • Criminal Minds: There is a heartbreaking B-plot involving Agent Rossi's former commanding officer from when he was in the Vietnam war, who is black. In the course of a case, Rossi stumbles on him living on the street. It is then revealed that the medal which Rossi believed he earned, should have gone to his commanding officer. Rossi gives the guy the medal in a public ceremony and gets him a place with a charity that works with veterans. Eventually, the man is also reunited with his son and daughter-in-law. This guy wasn't getting respect from society because of his race, and he wasn't getting respect from his children because of his PTSD.
  • In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Isaiah Bradley was among several African American soldiers that were given an experimental form of the Super Serum to turn them into Super Soldiers, but many died due to complications, with Bradley and two others being the only ones left alive. When the other two men were captured during the Korean War, high command ordered the P.O.W. camp where they were held to be firebombed to keep their existence a secret. Bradley snuck out of his base and rescued them (much like Steve Rogers did during WWII), but it was All for Nothing as the men died from complications soon after. For going off base without permission, Bradley was court-martialed for insubordination and disobeying orders, and was sent to prison where he was experimented on for thirty years, and his wife was told that he had died during his imprisonment to keep anyone from the outside from asking questions about him. He only managed to escape when a sympathetic nurse helped fake his death.
  • A sketch on the 90s black British sketch show The Real McCoy had two WWII veterans, one black, one Indian, reflecting on their time in the war, and the abuse they suffered, but it was worth it because they helped put an end to a racist authoritarian state. Now they just need to do something about the other one.
  • The opening of Watchmen (2019) depicts the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, including shots of Will's father, a World War I veteran, in his old uniform as they flee the white mob sacking Greenwood. The second episode has a flashback of his father picking up a German Army leaflet urging black troops to switch sides and then being spat on by a white officer.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil: Hitler's commanding officer during World War I turns out to be a Jewish man. It's suggested that Hitler, who already held strong antisemitic beliefs at the time, earned his Iron Cross by blackmailing the man with this information.note 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Bill Mauldin wrote two well-known postwar panels on the topic of Japanese-American soldiers:
    • Hitoshi Mitsuki's fruit stand is under new management, with a sign "Let's Keep America for Americans." The new owner says, "Naw, we don't haveta worry about the owner coming back. He was killed in Italy."
    • A wounded Nisei veteran, with Combat Infantryman's badge and several years worth of service bars, stands at a patriotically decorated bar that is clearly proud to serve servicemen. The bartender points at a 'No Japs' sign. "Can't ya read?"

  • This is the plot of Deep are the Roots, a 1945 play by Arnaud d'Usseau and James Gow about a black U.S. Army veteran who returns to the Deep South at the end of World War II.

    Video Games 
  • In Dark Elf Historia, Freylia came to Orocu during the Great Offscreen War, where she served as a mercenary in Orocu's army. After the war, the government stiffed her because she was a dark elf, and, lacking the money to return home, she became a permanent member of Orocu's immigrant underclass, eking out a living by undertaking dangerous and potentially degrading jobs.
  • Lincoln Clay from Mafia III is a black Vietnam veteran who suffers systematic prejudice and discrimination upon returning to his home town New Bordeaux (fictionalized New Orleans).
  • Valkyria Chronicles features the Darcsens. Despite some veterans having served in the previous war, some Darcsens face constant prejudice and alienation from their peers in the Galian Militia due to a long (not to mention complicated) history amongst the races of Europa. It actually translates into gameplay; as certain characters with the 'Darscen Hater' trait will receive debuffs if stationed near any Darcsen squad members.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • On Gargoyles, gargoyles across the world have been mistreated, banished, and massacred despite their dedication to protecting people.

    Real Life 
  • Sadly all-too-common in the pre-Civil Rights era in the United States, especially in the South, and particularly following World War I, where returning black soldiers were even lynched in their uniforms. Come World War II, the difference between how African-American veterans were treated in Europe versus how they were treated at home, Truman's integration of the US Armed Forces, and the overt race-based policies of Nazi Germany were contributing factors to the Civil Rights Movement. German and Japanese propaganda urging black soldiers not to fight, along with otherwise showcasing other racism in the US, helped this along (grossly hypocritical, of course, with both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan being incredibly racist themselves but it did cause embarrassment which spurred changes).
  • To this day, undocumented immigrants are allowed to serve in the US armed forces, but can still be deported. American Samoan people also frequently serve, but still are denied citizenship, rather being designated as "nationals", a lesser legal category, which bars them from ever becoming officers among other things.
  • San Francisco became America's Gayborhood because veterans who realized they were homosexual, bisexual, or transgender while serving and later outed knew You Can't Go Home Again as they would not be accepted. San Francisco was a major West Coast port of call for returning vets, so those who couldn't go back home stayed there among others like themselves.
  • As cited above in the Max, Maus, and Anne Frank examples, the treatment of German-Jewish soldiers who served during World War I falls into this. Many served in spite of virulent antisemitism in the country at the time; they hoped to earn the privilege of being treated as equals to non-Jewish people in German society, or that Germany would be able to stop the pogroms against the Russian-Jewish people. Even though many earned honors, the soldiers and veterans were quickly turned on when the Nazis rose to power. Although there were attempts to protect their veteran status by President Hindenburg, those disappeared after his death in 1935. After the Kristallnacht, the Jewish veterans organization was disbanded, its last act advising its members to flee Germany. Those who remained were treated the same as other Jews who remained: rounded up, imprisoned, and executed. The Nazis even tried to erase evidence that there were any Jewish soldiers who fought on behalf of Germany in World War I, and earlier the Army had suppressed a survey which showed Jews served at higher rates than their gentile counterparts since they had wanted to prove the opposite.
  • Svetozar Boroević, a Croat general in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, who thanks to his leadership rose to the rank of Field Marshal despite the pro-Austrian bias of the time, found himself after the war being rejected by all of the successor states of the now-dismembered Austro-Hungarian Empire; Yugoslavs despised him for his pro-Habsburg loyalty (and apparent willingness to sacrifice numerous Yugoslavs in the defense of Austria-Hungary), while in the new Republic of Austria he was seen as an embarrassing reminder of their defeat and division.