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States with the most veterans

  • States with the most veterans

    Every day, thousands of brave men and women put their lives on the line to defend the United States. And every day, more and more members of the military hang up their uniforms and settle into a much-deserved retirement. Serving in the military is an incredible sacrifice, and the members of the U.S. Armed Forces have chosen to serve the nation in one of the most selfless ways possible. Today there are more than 18 million U.S. veterans.

    But for many in the military, service doesnʼt end upon returning home. The effects of service can be long-lasting, often for life. And while many Americans are grateful for veteransʼ service, there is still much to learn about how to properly help veterans reacclimate to civilian life.

    Many veterans are unaware of what options are available to them, while more are affected drastically by mental health issues and are unable to reintegrate without proper care. Many states are working tirelessly to combat the issues that their resident veterans face, while others still have some catching up to do in the way of veteran education and relief. With Memorial Day just around the corner, it is interesting to see where improvement is needed as a country with respect to honoring and supporting veterans.

    Where do our veterans decide to settle upon returning home?

    Stacker examined 2018 U.S. Census data released in December 2019 to determine which states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, have the highest rates of veterans as a percentage of the adult civilian population. The Census defines veterans as those who have formerly had active duty service across the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, in addition to U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.

    For each location, estimated populations for veterans—coming from recent tours of duty today to as far back as World War II—are provided, offering a glimpse into the legacy of service that resides within each state, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

    Read on to learn about the U.S. states with the most vets.

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  • #52. Puerto Rico

    - Total veterans: 74,415 (2.9% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 1,486 (2% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 12,559 (16.9% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 26,980 (36.3% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ʼ90–Aug. ʼ01): 9,277 (12.5% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ʼ01 or later): 13,847 (18.6% of veterans)

    Compared to the rest of the country, Puerto Rico is not the most popular retirement address for veterans. According to Harry Franqui-Rivera of NBC News, the reasons are varied. “Our history is filled with injustices committed toward African American and Latino veterans, including those who have died serving the nation,” he writes. As a result, young Puerto Rican veterans have started moving off the island. Today less than 3% of the population of Puerto Rico is made up of veterans.

  • #51. Washington D.C.

    - Total veterans: 23,254 (4.1% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 982 (4.2% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 2,115 (9.1% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 5,469 (23.5% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 5,540 (23.8% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 7,526 (32.4% of veterans)

    Unfortunately, like many other areas in the country, Washington D.C. suffers from a high level of homelessness among veterans. However, the capital city has had a goal for years to permanently fix the issue. According to Cassidy Jensen of The DC Line, the district has been decreasing homeless numbers among veterans for the past five years. It has decreased the number of homeless veterans by 27%.

  • #50. New Jersey

    - Total veterans: 308,012 (4.4% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 14,284 (4.6% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 35,461 (11.5% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 112,419 (36.5% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 39,115 (12.7% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 49,242 (16% of veterans)

    New Jerseyʼs veteran population is among the lowest in the country, and data is showing that those numbers could shrink smaller still. According to Susanne Cervenka of the Asbury Park Press, the state’s veteran population could dwindle to a third of what it is today during the next 30 years. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) believes the number of veterans in the nation will shrink overall, but that there will be a particularly steep drop-off in New Jersey.

  • #49. New York

    - Total veterans: 678,833 (4.4% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 29,951 (4.4% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 63,584 (9.4% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 246,548 (36.3% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 94,729 (14% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 106,916 (15.7% of veterans)

    There are less than 1 million veterans in New York State, totaling 4.4% of the population 18 or older. Still, it’s one of the only states in the nation that does not have a cemetery dedicated exclusively to veterans. All of that is about to change, though. In November 2019, on the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is introducing legislation to establish the first veterans cemetery in New York, writes Marian Hetherly in NPRʼs WSKG.

  • #48. California

    - Total veterans: 1,538,797 (5.1% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 52,717 (3.4% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 129,184 (8.4% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 537,650 (34.9% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 293,661 (19.1% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 325,615 (21.2% of veterans)

    Approximately 5% of Californiaʼs population 18 or older is composed of veterans, though looking strictly at numbers, the state has one of the highest populations of veterans, at 1.5 million. True to California's innovation and emphasis on the outdoors, the state is considering creative ways to help its large vet population cope with some of the side effects of military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At the end of 2019, CBS News reported that Southern California launched a new recovery program for vets that paired sea lions injured in the wild with veterans dealing with PTSD.

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  • #47. Massachusetts

    - Total veterans: 292,644 (5.3% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 11,686 (4% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 30,026 (10.3% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 103,306 (35.3% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 41,948 (14.3% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 48,182 (16.5% of veterans)

    Soldiers know that there is always a risk and a price for combat, but they may not always recognize just how high the cost. According to the VA, post-traumatic stress disorder is a common side effect among combat veterans, hovering around 20% for those involved in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and as high as 30% for those who were active in the Vietnam War. For Massachusetts’ veterans, marijuana is being used to treat PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression among veterans. Findings from the 2019 Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study looked at 201 veterans in Massachusetts, a large majority of whom responded that cannabis provided relief, according to Susan Spencerʼs article in South Coast Today.

  • #46. Utah

    - Total veterans: 120,410 (5.4% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 3,454 (2.9% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 7,958 (6.6% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 41,246 (34.3% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 29,365 (24.4% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 29,671 (24.6% of veterans)

    While 5.4% of Utah’s population is made up of veterans, it’s not the easiest place for them to carry on as civilians. According to a 2019 report from finance website WalletHub, Utah ranked as the ninth worst place for veterans. According to Hunter Geiselʼs article on, the decision was based on the economic environment, quality of life, and health care. These categories are further broken down into job opportunities, quality of public university systems, share of veterans not receiving food stamps, the stateʼs number of VA health facilities, and more.

  • #45. Illinois

    - Total veterans: 559,656 (5.7% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 17,975 (3.2% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 45,343 (8.1% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 203,913 (36.4% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 98,953 (17.7% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 98,857 (17.7% of veterans)

    Ever since 1944, returning veterans have been entitled to something known as the GI Bill, which is a law that offers benefits to help veterans pay for education and training programs. According to an August 2019 article in the Chicago Tribune by Kate Thayer, more than 780,000 veterans used their GI Bill to attend school in 2018. More than 21,000 of those veterans were at schools in Illinois.

  • #44. Connecticut

    - Total veterans: 165,029 (5.8% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 6,687 (4.1% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 15,716 (9.5% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 61,354 (37.2% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 23,009 (13.9% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 26,712 (16.2% of veterans)

    Unfortunately, reentry to civilian life is not always easy for veterans. In fact, sometimes it’s downright impossible. A sad reality is that there are more than 40,000 homeless veterans in the United States, and many individual states have been trying for years to pare down that population and give veterans homes and services that they desperately need and deserve. Connecticut is one of those states. According to Bill Floodʼs piece on Fox61, Connecticut is showing that homelessness among veterans fell to 2.1% in 2019.

  • #43. Rhode Island

    - Total veterans: 54,848 (6.5% of population 18 or older)
    --- World War II: 2,534 (4.6% of veterans)
    --- Korean War: 4,182 (7.6% of veterans)
    --- Vietnam War: 21,323 (38.9% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War I (Aug. ’90–Aug. ’01): 8,009 (14.6% of veterans)
    --- Gulf War II (Sept. ’01 or later): 11,227 (20.5% of veterans)

    Employment can already be a challenge for veterans. Throw a global pandemic in the mix, and a bleak situation becomes dismal at best. However some states, like Rhode Island, are prioritizing the employment of veterans when unemployment is at an all-time high right now, due to COVID-19. One group, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, is leading the fight for employment for veterans, reports the Johnston Sunrise. OSDRIʼs case managers have worked to identify veterans across the homeless shelters in the state and place elderly veterans in local hotels.

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