Veterans day background with chalkboard on wooden table and USA flag

SALT LAKE CITY – Veteran’s Day will honor more than 150,000 Utahns.

The majority of those former service members (nearly 80 percent) served in periods of conflict since World War II, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis & Statistics.

In age, Utah veterans range from 18 to more than 100 years old.

A surprisingly high number of them (11,515) are women.

Pentagon officials say that the United States has declared war 11 times in its nearly 250 year history and nearly 41 million Americans have rallied to colors during those conflicts. Around 18 million of those veterans are alive today, down from 26.4 million two decades ago.

The largest cohort of veterans alive today served during the Vietnam Era from 1964 to 1975. Nationally, that number is about 6.4 million while Vietnam veterans in Utah now number around 46,000.

Men and women who wore uniforms during World War II are now are the fastest shrinking cohort among veterans.

More than 16 million Americans served during that era from 1941 to 1945. There are now fewer than 500,000 World War II veterans left in America, down from 5.7 million at the turn of the century.

Here in Utah, the remaining World War II veterans number about 7,000.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, despite the U.S. military build-up after 2001 for the War on Terror, the population of veterans in America has been declining for decades. Since the year 2000, the national veteran population declined by about one-third.

Census officials point to two factors influencing that declining veteran population.

The first is that the U.S. military establishment is significantly smaller today than in the past, according to Census analyst Jonathan E. Vespa.

Today, only about 1.4 million men and women are on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, compared to 16 million at the height of World War II.

Another factor is the elimination of the military draft in 1973 and the transition of our armed services to an all-volunteer force, which allowed military recruiters to be more selective.

“Drafts and voluntary enlistments from World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars left a substantial imprint on the veteran population,” Vespa explains. “That imprint lasted for decades.”

In 1950, for example, more than 1 in 3 adult male Americans was a veteran, largely due to conscription during World War II. That imprint was still apparent 50 years later when 1 in 4 male adults were veterans.

“In coming decades,” Vespa says, “the number of veterans is projected to continue declining.

“Today, about 1 in 8 men in the United States are veterans. By 2040, that number is projected to fall to about 1 in 14.”

In the meantime, the number of women veterans is projected to remain stable at about 1 in 100 for the next two decades.

The observance of Veterans Day originated in 1919 on the first anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

Veterans Day will be celebrated on Thursday, Nov. 11.

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