The U.S. Census Bureau rolled out its annual look at veteran statistics last week, showing that 7.3 percent of U.S. adults have served in the military. That’s a group of 18.2 million Americans, including more than 120,000 in El Paso County who have worn the uniform.
But one thing stands out in the Census report: America’s veterans are a gray-haired group. More than half of America’s living veterans are older than 65. Less than one veteran in 10 is younger than 35.
That speaks volumes on how America is going to war these days. The all-volunteer force of today takes in a tiny percentage of the American population.
In Vietnam and the 20th century wars that preceded it, America drafted its troops, calling in a wide swath of the nation’s youths. By the end of World War II, more than 12 million Americans were in uniform. Now the armed forces have 1.2 million troops on active duty and about 800,000 part-time forces in the reserves and National Guard.
This month, America marked 17 years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that combat has been the burden of a tiny group of Americans. Just 3.5 million of America’s veterans were part of the post-9/11 force.
That’s 3 million fewer than the 6.5 million living veterans from the Vietnam era.
The Census report also shows how time has taken a toll on the ranks of World War II veterans. While 12 million veterans fought in that war, just 614,000 are alive in 2018.
There is also a Census statistic that shows how military skills serve veterans after they hang up the uniform.
The average veteran earns $40,500 per year. That’s $10,000 more than those who didn’t serve.
Veterans are also more educated than their civilian counterparts. More than 65 percent of veterans have attended college. That’s five percentage points higher than the civilians.
About 7 percent of veterans live in poverty, compared with 12 percent of American civilians.
But the Census numbers also show that life in the military takes its toll. More than 5 million veterans reported having some form of disability, accounting for 29 percent of the nation’s veteran population. That’s nearly double the civilian disability rate of 15 percent.
NEW FORCES COMMAND BOSS HAS COLORADO ROOTS
A Colorado native is the first woman to head the Army’s Forces Command, which puts her atop more than 700,000 troops.
Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson took over as interim boss at Forces Command last week after Gen. Robert Abrams left to lead U.S. forces in South Korea. Richardson, a graduate of Metropolitan State University in Denver, has headed the Army’s equipment test and development arm and is a decorated helicopter pilot.
While the Army has had female generals, Richardson’s role puts her atop all the service’s combat troops. The Army began officially allowing women into ground combat jobs in 2013, allowing the first females in its artillery, infantry and armor branches.