1. Veterans have served during times of war and peace. A Veteran is any person who has ever served in the five branches of the Armed Forces — U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard — in times of war of peace, whether as active duty (full time) or in the National Guard or Reserves (part time). Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations explains that a Veteran is a person who completed a service for any branch of the Armed Forces as long as they were not dishonorably discharged. Approximately 16.1 million Veterans alive today have served during at least one war.
2. There are more than 65,000 personal Veterans stories available to the public. The Veterans History Project, through the Library of Congress American Folklife Center, has collected over 65,000 individual Veterans’ war stories from a variety of branches and service eras to preserve them and make them accessible for future generations. This collection is extensive, and it includes videotapes, audiotapes, written memoirs, visual materials, and letters from soldiers from World War II to the present.
3. Veterans are more likely to vote. Almost 70 percent of Veterans vote in each election cycle, placing their voting rate at nearly 10 percent higher than the non-Veteran population.
4. Veterans are much more likely to own a business. A U.S. Small Business Administration study found that Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed as small business owners than are non-Veterans. In fact, there are over 2.4 million Veteran-owned businesses in the United States, with the most popular industries being professional, scientific, and technical services.
5. Most Veterans live in the South and the West. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that more than 1 million Veterans currently live in either California, Florida, or Texas. The five most Veteran-dense cities include Killeen, Texas, Clarksville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, North Carolina, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Hampton, Virginia.
6. The Veteran population is diverse. Given that the military is the largest and most far-reaching employer in the country, it’s perhaps not surprising that more than 1 in 5 Veterans (21 percent) are either African-American, Asian-American, or Latino. About 1 in 10 (9 percent) overall are also women. These rates are only expected to grow as America itself becomes more diverse — to 1 in 3 nonwhites and 2 in 10 women by 2045, nearly double what they are today.
7. Veterans are growing rarer as a group. Now that the U.S. military is an all-volunteer force — versus draft enlistment during the Vietnam War era — the Veteran population is actually shrinking. VA has projected that between 2016 and 2045, the number of Veterans in America will decrease by about 40 percent. What this means is that the coming decades will see a Veteran community that is more both more select and more geographically dispersed than the community of Veterans today.
8. More Americans support funding for Veterans than for schools and highways. An April 2017 survey by Pew Research Center found that 3 in 4 respondents (75 percent) would increase federal spending on Veterans benefits and services if the budget were up to them. That’s more than the percentage who would increase spending on education (67 percent) and on infrastructure (58 percent). It’s also the highest level in more than two decades, up from 58 percent in 2001.
9. Nearly 1 in 10 U.S. businesses (excluding farms) are owned by Veterans. According to 2012 data, roughly 2.5 million of America’s 27.6 million nonfarm businesses are majority-owned by Veterans.
10. Student Veterans are more likely to graduate from college than their peers. Even when comparing ages and schedules, Veterans outshine civilians when it comes to graduation rates. While only half of traditional students finish their degrees, nearly three-quarters of Veterans who use the GI Bill make it through school. (Veterans’ average GPA during college is also slightly higher: 3.35 for Vets versus 3.11 overall.)
11. You’re less likely to be president if you haven’t served in the military. You read that right: 31 out of the 45 U.S. presidents had a military career before getting elected to the nation’s highest office. All but one president who enlisted went on to become an officer (James Buchanan), and Theodore Roosevelt even earned the highest honor in the military (the Medal of Honor).