Some things to ponder as Veterans Day 2019 approaches:
• The Department of Veterans Affairs conducted its most recent veterans population model estimate in 2016. It found that veterans of the Gulf War era — from when the bombs dropped on Baghdad on Aug. 2, 1990, to the present — now make up the single largest subset of that population (7.271 million as of the survey, compared to 6.651 million Vietnam era veterans).
That trend is likely to continue, even as the overall veterans population declines. VA researchers expect it to drop by a whopping 40% by 2045, at which point the majority of veterans will be millennials (the generation that catches so much grief these days).
Moving forward, veterans also will look different than the ones you grew up knowing, admiring and honoring. Men outnumbered women 9 to 1 and 77% of veterans were non-Hispanic whites at the time of the ‘06 population survey. That’s going to change; the projection is that the number of female veterans will double by 2045.
Takeaway: Don’t assume that a young person parking in a spot reserved for veterans or seeking to take advantage of one of the specials offered by merchants, restaurants and others to veterans on the 11th day of the 11th month in gratitude are doing so wrongly, or that the woman getting out of a vehicle in one of those spots is the veteran’s spouse.
• The VA survey also found that the number of Americans with military experience has declined drastically, from 18% of the U.S. population in 1980 to 7% in 2016. It’s another trend that’s likely to continue, as the service branches are turning to social media advertising and offering incentive packages to help adequately fill their ranks.
However, recent polling shows that for a variety of reasons, only 12.5% of young people are willing to consider the military either as a career or a stepping stone to some other field.
Takeaway: We’re not going to make a recruiting pitch; the military isn’t for everyone, even if some hard cases out there idealize it as a way to shape up miscreants. Still, serving one’s country is an honorable endeavor. Appreciate those who have made that choice.
• A Pew Research Center survey found that the Department of Veterans Affairs received the lowest favorability rating among 10 federal agencies and departments, although three-fourths of Americans in another Pew survey said they would place veterans benefits at the top of the priority list for increased federal spending.
Takeaway: People want veterans not so much to be rewarded, but to be properly compensated for the sacrifices they made — and in some cases the blood they shed — to defend this country. The stories of the VA falling short there, especially in health care, have been quite well documented and are the main reason for the agency’s popularity.
We’ve said repeatedly that veterans deserve all the kudos they receive each Nov. 11 and in earlier or later events surrounding the holiday, like the annual parade on Broad Street.
The problem is, there are 364 other days in the year (365 in leap years), and veterans merit consideration on them, too.