Robert L. DilenschneiderRobert L. Dilenschneider

On Saturday, November 11, we observe Veterans Day to honor the men and women who stand in harm's way so that we at home can live full, safe lives.

There will be parades and speeches across the nation and a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But each of us needs to add our own contribution, if only in our thoughts and prayers.

It appears there will not be a day in our lifetimes when American men and women aren’t out there defending us, for we have been at war without pause ever since the 9/11 attacks.

We have more than 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories, including such conflict zones as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Niger and Somalia.

There are longstanding troop deployments in Japan (39,980), South Korea (23,591), Germany (36,034), Britain (8,286), Turkey (1,364), Bahrain (6,524) and Qatar (3,055). And nearly 38,000 troops are on undisclosed missions – the Pentagon describes their locations only as “unknown.”

It is an extraordinary national commitment. We need to appreciate each and every one of the men and women who fulfill it.
But our obligations don’t end there. Every day, dozens of service people return to the U.S. from assignments overseas. They deserve our recognition and gratitude.

There are 3.8 million veterans with service-related disabilities.  They need our help.  Approximately 7.4 million veterans, ages 18 to 64, are in the labor force.  Thousands more need jobs.

Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. President Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor all those who served in American wars.

Here are some important facts about America's service men and women:

  • 18.5 million: The number of military veterans in the U.S. in 2016.
  • 1.6 million: The number of female veterans.
  • 9.2 million: The number of veterans 65 and older. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.6 million are younger than 35.
  • 6.7 million: number of Vietnam-era veterans. 7.1 million served during the Gulf War. 768,000 in World War II. And 1.6 million in the Korean War.
  • Three states are home to more than 1 million veterans—California (1.6 million), Texas (1.5 million) and Florida (1.4 million.)
  • 28.3 Percent of veterans 25 years and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • The annual median income of male veterans is $40,076; for female veterans it is $34,178.  Both figures are well below the 2015 median national income of $56,516.
  • Of the 5.5 million businesses in the U.S., 398,453 are veteran-owned.
  • 14.4 million veterans voted in the 2016 presidential election. That’s a participation rate of 69.6 percent, compared with 60.6 percent among non-veterans.

I invite you to consider the following, which says all that must be remembered about this special group of patriots and heroes:

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag. And whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."

--Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

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Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder and chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. The former CEO of Hill and Knowlton, Inc., he is also author of more than a dozen books, including the best-selling “Power and Influence.”