It’s Veteran’s Day. A storm is coming in. Forecasters thought it might be a bad one. Earlier in the week, they even warned of possible supercells and tornadic activity, but the chances now for severe weather have greatly diminished. In fact, we may not even see any rain. Funny how unpredictable the weather has become. Even the experts don’t know what to expect.
Most of the autumn leaves have fallen. The rains of last week and the winds today have plucked most trees. The woods are growing scraggly and bare. Temperatures are inching lower. The 80s we relished the first day of Autumn are now only reaching the 60s. Starting tomorrow, even the 60s will be a stretch and the 50s will be pressed for warmth. Nights are getting colder, too, more frequently bringing frost. We’ve even had a couple of freezes, but none long enough to repaint the grass brown. All in all, it’s been very mild autumn, considering it’s already mid-November and most coats are still in closets.
When I awoke on this gray morning and realized it was Veteran’s Day, I immediately thought of my grandfather and father – both now gone – and my brother, Krist, who is very much alive and well. All three served. I also thought of my dear Dean Scherer, and, of course, Robert Upshaw, and young, new father, Allen Costar – who’s serving now. Faces and names, past and present. I’ve been so lucky to know so many who have served in the military and reserves. They are or were wonderful people – all.
As I thought about them and about the many who serve now. It suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how many people are in our Armed Forces now. More surprising, I realized that I had no idea if we were still at war, and if we were, with whom! Well, I’ve been working as a researcher of late and put my research skills to the task. Here’s what I’ve found.
Right now, there are approximately 1.4-million men and women on active duty in the US Military and just over 40-thousand in the Department of Homeland Security’s Coast Guard, plus another 1.3-million in the reserves, and 907-thousand civilians. In total, more than 3.6-million men and women actively working or committed to fight to uphold America’s Constitutional rights and freedoms. Forty-seven percent of them are with the US Army, 21% with the Air Force, 17% with the Navy, 12% with the Marine Corps, and 2% with the Coast Guard. 100% heroes.
According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, as of September 2015, the nation has more than 21-million living veterans, with 494-thousand living in Missouri. They have served in WWII, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, the Gulf Wars, various actions and/or in peacetime.
In the nation’s history, more than 41-million have served in our Armed Forces, a million have died while serving, more than 650-thousand were killed in battle. Almost a 1.5 million have been non-mortally wounded. An untold number have suffered psychologically from the things they’ve seen and been asked to do. In fact, the suicide rate for veterans – even among those who served their entire commitment in the US – is twice as high as for non-military civilians. Tragically, on average, a US veteran commits suicide every single day.
When I researched “Is America at war?” the answer was murky, at best. While we still have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have drones, troops and/or military advisers/trainers in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, plus the location-vague war on Isis (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), with some engagement supporting the rebels in the Syrian Civil War. Beyond doubt, we have men and women serving in harm’s way around the world, to protect us and our way of life.
What a debt of gratitude we owe!
Certainly more than one day of thanks and flag waving can repay.
If you would like to help our veterans, here are some ways to do so, ways recommended by vets:
- Volunteer at a VA hospital, clinic, or soldiers’ home.
- Contact and help the local Guard/Reserve Family Support program.
- Contact the local VFW or American Legion post and ask how you can best help veterans in your area.
- Donate to a military charity. (Be sure to check its legitimacy first on charitynavigator.org or other online charity watchdog. With over 400,000 charities supporting the military, very few of them actually use your donations wisely).
- Demand that our Senators and Representative legislate for better veterans’ care.
- And, above all: Talk to veterans! Ask them about their service. Not, how many people did you kill? – Seriously, people ask that all too often. Don’t ask that! Ask: Where did you serve? What did you do? Do you miss it? Do you have friends who also served? Is there anything I can do to make your civilian life better?
- Finally, thank them personally for their service. While it may seem trite, letting veterans know that you genuinely appreciate everything they went through for the country still matters. It matters greatly.
And, at the very least, we, as a grateful nation, can give them that.