Monday’s holiday, the official federal observance of today’s Veterans Day, is a good time to consider and honor the contributions and sacrifices of veterans. It is a relatively new holiday, but a good one. I saw some of you yesterday, when a better-than-usual crowd watched a couple of thousand participants in the City’s Veterans Day march and memorial. I would like to thank all observers, participants, and organizers for their work.
When he designated November 11 as a national day of observance for veterans, President Dwight Eisenhower called on Americans to use the opportunity to recall the valor of American soldiers and to “reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” Ike’s words seem particularly urgent today.
The news media used to write and say more about veterans than they do today. Here are some facts about American veterans you might not know: According to the Census Bureau, there are almost 24 million military veterans in the United States, almost 2 million of whom are women. Almost 40 percent of all veterans are 65 years old, or older. More than 11 million military veterans under the age of 65 are in the civilian labor force.More than 3 million living veterans served in World War II. Three documented veterans of World War I service are still alive.Ninety percent of all veterans over the age of 25 have high school diplomas; a quarter also have college degrees. Almost six percent of military veterans live in poverty; half the rate for non-veterans. As many as a half million military veterans will be homeless during any one year 200,000 on any given night. More than 6 million veterans have a disability; more than half of all disabled veterans are 65 or older.Federal spending on veterans benefits programs was about $72 billion dollars last year — half of it for compensation and pensions; half for medical programs.