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Veterans deserve more than a trite expression
The phrase “thank you for your service,” has become almost cliché, but delivers an important message when spoken sincerely.
It’s a welcome contrast to the words that greeted soldiers returning from Vietnam, who felt it necessary to don civilian clothes as soon as possible to avoid the stigma associated with participation in an unpopular war.
Those Vietnam-era veterans comprised the largest number of living U.S. veterans in 2018, the latest figures available from the Census Bureau, 6.4 million of them who served from 1964 to 1975
The pandemic has accelerated the loss of World War II veterans, who numbered only 240,329 as of Sept. 30, 2021, down from 5.7 million in 2000.
More and more veterans are women, 9% in 2018 and projected to reach 17% by 2040.
Today’s veterans are more highly educated, three-quarters of Post 9/11 and Gulf War veterans with at least some college education, and more than a third of Gulf War veterans have a college degree.
But they’re more likely to have a service-connected disability, even after accounting for differences in demographic and social characteristics among veterans — significantly higher than that of veterans from other periods.
Post 9/11 veterans had a 39% chance of having a disability rating of 70% or more, significantly higher than for veterans of other periods.
More frightening is the suicide rate among veterans, about one and a half times higher than that of the general population, 2.5 times higher for female veterans.
Yes, it’s appropriate to say “thank you for your service” if it’s sincere, but how much more important is it to do everything we can to support our friends, family and neighbors who may be suffering from physical or mental injuries received during their time in the military.
A list of sources for help is available here.