Veterans Day by the numbers

Published 11:09 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

“I had no idea that many men and women have served our country in our armed forces.”
“Ah, yes, you refer to Veterans Day facts and figures shared by the U.S. Census Bureau. Did you know there are 19.3 million U.S. veterans living today? Roughly half are 65 and older. Nearly 2 million are under the age of 35.”
“That’s interesting stuff. Those older than 65 served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and the 2 million under 35 served mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan after 911?”
“You are correct. According to statistics released by the Department of Veterans Affairs, World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 492 a day. This means there are approximately only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II.”
“The greatest generation!”
“My father served in the Korean War. He is 82. Of the 5.7 million who served during that war, 2 million veterans are still with us.”
“What about the Vietnam War?”
“Of the 8.7 million veterans who served in that horrific war, 7 million are still alive. To round out the numbers, 5.5 million veterans served during the Gulf War era, which spans 1990 to the present. Roughly 4.4 million veterans served during peacetime. Other veterans had it awfully tough.”
“How so?”
“Nearly 63,000 living veterans served during the Vietnam War and both periods of the Gulf War. They served from August 1990 through August 2001 and then from September 2001 and beyond.”
“God bless them for their service.”
“Some of our living veterans served through three wartime periods! Nearly 37,000 served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.”
“The makeup of the armed services is changing as our demographics change. Though nearly 80 percent are ‘non-Hispanic white,’ nearly 12 percent are black, 6 percent are Hispanic, 1.5 percent are Asian and nearly 2.5 percent are Native Americans, Alaskans and Hawaiians.”
“What about women who serve?”
“Those numbers are growing, too. There are currently 1.6 million female veterans in our country.”
“We are lucky to still have these men and women with us and the purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all of those who have served. But what about the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country?”
“Did you know that nearly 1 million Americans have died for their country? Approximately 4,500 died during the American revolution.”
“I did not know that. What about our bloody Civil War?”
“Bloody is the right word. Nearly 370,000 Union soldiers and 135,000 Confederate soldiers died during that war. We lost nearly 120,000 veterans in World War I and nearly 405,000 in World War II. The Korean War claimed 34,000 and the Vietnam War 48,000.”
“Those are sobering numbers.”
“If there is any silver lining as far as war goes, it is that our modern war-fighting techniques and medical technologies are resulting in fewer battlefield deaths. Of the 1.5 million who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have suffered approximately 6,500 losses. However, nearly 50,000 were wounded and many of them are still suffering from their disabilities.”
“We need to do more to help our suffering veterans.”
“That is exactly what Veterans Day is about. It is a special day when we honor all of those who have served. It is also a great day to give back.”
“Give back?”
“We can volunteer at a local veterans’ organization or provide financial support. has a list of legitimate organizations that provide help and resources to disabled veterans. I’m going to donate $50 now.”
“Now that’s the kind of Veterans Day number I prefer!”
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.

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