Numbers of Veterans from Each War
As of April 2021, there are around 19 million U.S. veterans, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. 42% of the male Americans aged 75 years and over were veterans – the most out of any age group or gender.
Gulf War era veterans now account for the largest share of all U.S. veterans, having surpassed Vietnam-era veterans in 2016, according to the VA’s 2018 population model estimates. The VA estimates for 2021 there were 5.9 million American veterans who served during the Vietnam era and 7.8 million who served in the Gulf War era, which spans from August 1990 through the present. There are also around 240,000 World War II veterans and about 933,000 who served during the Korean conflict, the VA estimates.
The Origins of Veteran’s Day
Understanding the need to recognize our country’s veterans arose after WWI. During the war, the U.S. mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered the loss of 65,000 soldiers. In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.
Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor. These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as “Armistice Day.”
Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
The Importance of Veteran’s Day
The Importance of Veteran’s Day cannot be overlooked. Our military men and women make up for less than 1% of our population. These men and women have risked their lives’ so that we can live in freedom. After their service, they continue to serve our country through their wisdom and experience. It’s their knowledge and understanding of how the world operates during war time that preserves our humanity. Veterans show us that we can have peace through strength, but they have also shown us that our country is the light of the world and they will defend it at all costs. Veterans aren’t just in service to our country during their active days, they’re in service to us throughout all of their days. Today, take a moment and think about the service of a veteran in your life, be thankful the 1 percenters are out there and say a prayer to watch over them.
History Channel, https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/veterans-day-facts, obtained November 11, 2022.
Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/05/the-changing-face-of-americas-veteran-population/, obtained November 11, 2022.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/vetday.pdf, obtained November 11, 2022.