Our View: Appreciating those who served

Our View: Appreciating those who served

(Photo/Chris Teale)

Veterans Day is an opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to the current and former members of America’s armed forces.

We thank those currently risking their lives fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Middle East, the nearly 30,000 U.S. troops serving in the Korean demilitarized zone, and military personnel serving at American bases at home and around the world. With more than 2 million people currently holding active duty or reserve positions, the U.S. military has the second most personnel in the world, behind only China.

Those who volunteer do so for a variety of reasons. A sense of patriotism — of wanting to serve one’s country — is usually one motivating factor. Mixed in for most is the allure of a rewarding career and training that can be used later in civilian life, as well as an opportunity to go to college via the GI Bill. For some, the primary draw is a chance to travel beyond their hometowns and see the country and world. Regardless of their reasons for volunteering, we are grateful.

We also thank all of the living veterans of U.S. wars, from World War II through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were nearly 20 million living American veterans as of 2013, although the number of World War II vets is rapidly declining.

Stories can sometimes be told best in numbers, so here are a few statistics about U.S. veterans and service personnel to mull:

• There are more than 1.3 million Americans on active duty, with more than 800,000 reservists.

• There are approximately 2.5 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• The largest living group of veterans is from the Vietnam War, at more than 7 million.

• More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II, but according to the National World War II Museum, an average of nearly 500 veterans of the conflict die each day, leaving the total of living veterans at less than 900,000.

• The last American World War I veteran died in 2011.

• Of the 44 U.S. presidents, 26 served in the military, including nine in a row from Harry Truman though George H.W. Bush. The most recent president to serve was George W. Bush, who was a reservist during the Vietnam War.

If you haven’t already, please take the time to thank the veterans and active-duty service members in your lives, from the grandfather who fought in World War II and the uncle who served in Vietnam to the neighbor who just got back from Iraq. It’s OK; go hug a vet.