At the beginning of the new century, less than a quarter of America’s vets lived in rural America, reports Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News. “Now, even though there are 32. million fewer veterans than in 2000, there are 1.3 million more of them living in rural America, a 20 percent surge.” So California, New York and New Jersey have seen a decline in the number of vets who live there, Utah, Idaho and states in the southeast have a surge in vets. (Bench above at VFW Hall in Greenup, Illinois.)
A third of veterans live in rural communities, compared to a fifth of all Americans. In urbanized counties, those with at least 1,000 people per square mile, the veteran population has dropped an average of 17 percent this decade, according to the newspaper’s analysis. Only one California county — Placer, northeast of Sacramento — gained veteran population between 2000 and 2008. Vets tell Swift they are moving to places that are quiet.
“The list of places with the biggest jump in veteran population is also peppered with the names of rural areas like Washington County in southwestern Utah, with about 37 people per square mile; Madison County in eastern Idaho, with 58 people per square mile; and Matanuska Susitna Borough in Alaska, which includes Anchorage but has only two people per square mile,” Swift writes. “The rural growth is particularly striking among Vietnam era veterans where their numbers are up in rural states like Montana, Idaho and even South Dakota. While Santa Clara County lost 19 percent of its Vietnam era veterans this decade, according to U.S. Census data, the influx of Vietnam vets has been so substantial in southwestern Utah that the newcomers have founded a chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.