We constantly hear about Veterans. We thank them for their service, and they thank us for our support. But how do you distinguish a veteran from others? As you go out today, look around at the faces of the people you see around you. Out of the 100 people you pass by, fully 19 will be Veterans! Veterans come from all walks of life and every segment of our society. They are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They are all genders, races, and religions. They work in white collar jobs, in blue collar jobs, and some are unemployed. Some continue to serve as police, firefighters, and EMTs. The bottom line is Veterans are everywhere, but the one common denominator they all share is that they were, and are, willing to serve our country in times of war or peace.
Based on 2023 data, there are 18,592,457 living Veterans in the United States. These Veterans served from the time of WWII through the present time. There are no Civil War or WWI Veterans alive, with the last Civil War Veteran passing in 1956 and the last WWI Veteran passing in 2011. As per the 2020 census, the estimated U.S. adult population was 258,300,000 - that means approximately 1 out of every 14 adults is a Veteran.
Veterans from the WWII era have been nicknamed “The Greatest Generation.” However, one characteristic of WWII Veterans is that of the total that served, 38.8% (6,332,000) of U.S. servicemen and women were volunteers while 61.2% (11,535,000) were draftees. So, most of our “Greatest Generation” were drafted and not volunteers. This means that the generation that brought liberty and freedom to the world did so not because they chose to serve, but because they were involuntarily conscripted. This is significant when you consider that of the 17 million men and women who served in WWII, over 1 million died for us. And if the statistics are applied, fully 61.2% gave their lives involuntarily. It is then no wonder why this generation earned the title “the Greatest Generation.”
There is another “Great Generation” in the United States. Since 1972, the U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force. This is particularly significant as every member of the military since 1972 has chosen, on their own free will, to serve their country. Of those volunteers, over 10,000 have made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. For those individuals who have died while in military service, we recognize and honor their sacrifice on Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May every year. On Veterans Day, we celebrate and honor all Veterans, past and present, that have served our country to keep us free.
Today, our military, in addition to being an all-volunteer force, is composed of a substantial number of “citizen soldiers.” Of the 2,129,356 men and women currently in uniform, 1,335,548 or 62.7%, are on active duty rolls and 793,808 or 37.3% are members of the National Guard or Reserves. The National Guard and Reserves fulfill many critical roles and functions in our military’s structure – in many cases being deployed more often, and for longer periods, than their active-duty counterparts.
On this Veterans Day, we celebrate those who willingly defend us and our freedoms. Join me in thanking every Veteran, past or present, for standing up for us, for defending us. A hero is defined as someone who gives of themselves, often putting their own life at great risk, for the greater good of others. Veterans, you are our heroes. We commit to doing the right thing as you have done for us. We honor your service, and we will always support you.
Duane Nathaniel, Veteran and KCI’s President