This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
We have a lot of people to thank this Veterans Day – somewhere in the neighborhood of 21.8 million, according to the 2010 census. That’s how many men and women have served in the U.S. military, both in war and peace, and are still alive.
At one end of the spectrum, the ranks of veterans are marching into history. The last American veteran of World War I, Frank Buckles, died in February, a few weeks after his 110th birthday. And the soldiers of World War II – the so-called “Greatest Generation” are fading fast.
As of the 2010 census, 2.1 million WWII vets were still alive, but they’re dying at a rate of about 740 a day. The National WWII Museum estimates that of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, only 1.7 million are still living. If you know any, don’t put off thanking them.
At the other end of the spectrum is a swelling cadre of younger veterans, ones who have served since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many have served multiple deployments to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting untold pressure not only on themselves but on their families back home.
The extensive use of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan has inflicted grievous injuries on all too many of these younger veterans. Some of these injuries would have been fatal as recently as the Vietnam War. Multiple amputations, paralysis, brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder are making post-military life hugely challenging for thousands of these vets and their loved ones. They deserve all the support we can give them.
Many veterans are re-entering the civilian world and, like millions of other Americans, are finding it hard to get a job. With Congress considering extensive spending cuts to whittle the federal deficit, it’s likely the military will shrink – adding more veterans to the ranks of those looking for work.
As employers start to rehire, they should consider those who have recently left the military. They volunteered to make sacrifices few other Americans have made. They deserve the thanks and help of a grateful nation.
Help for vets
Washington state veterans and their families seeking medical or long-term care can contact the Veterans Benefit Enhancement Project at 360-725-1020. For information on hiring veterans, call 877-453-5906 or email HireaVet@esd.wa.gov. If you are a veteran seeking work, click here.