COL Rice on Veterans Day

By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director

The United States has a long history of service. Between September 2007 and September 2008, 26.4% of the U.S. population volunteered at least once. We volunteer for a cause we love. We fundraise for those in need. We cheer for the underdog.

Today, November 11, honors American’s who have served in a unique way. Those who served the country… our Veterans. Veteran’s Day is “a celebration to honor America’s Veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Here are some facts about our Veterans (source U.S. Census Bureau):

  • 23.2 million – the number of military Veterans in the United States in 2008
  • 1.8 million – the number of female Veterans in 2008
  • 9.2 million – the number of Veterans age 65 or older in 2008. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.9 million were younger than 35.
  • 5 – the number of states with 1 million or more Veterans in 2008. These states are California (2.1 million), Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.7 million), New York (1 million), and Pennsylvania (1 million).
  • 10.4 million – the number of Veterans 18 to 64 in the labor force in 2008.
  • 3.4 million – the number of Veterans with a service-connected disability rating. Of this number, 588,000 have a rating of 70 percent or higher.
  • 2.9 million – the number of Veterans who received compensation for service-connected disabilities as of 2008. Their compensation totaled $36.2 billion.
  • $84.4 billion – the total amount of federal government spending for Veterans benefits programs in fiscal year 2008. Of this total, $40.2 billion went to compensation and pensions, $37.9 billion for medical programs and the remainder to other programs, such as vocational rehabilitation and education.

While these numbers might be interesting, they are not nearly as dynamic as the Veterans themselves. As the Director of the Army Wounded Warrior Program, I’ve had the honor of hearing many of the personal stories of the more than 4,300 severely wounded, ill or injured Veterans in this program. Their stories of combat, their stories of fear, their stories of adventure, their stories of camaraderie, their stories of recovery, and their stories of life post injury.

This Veteran’s Day, I encourage you to listen to the story of a Veteran you know. If you are a Veteran, I hope you will share your story with others. These stories of service and sacrifice are this country’s history. A history we can be proud of.

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