World War II veterans: The ranks are thinning, but still strong

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If projections from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are correct, it will be several decades before Americans will have to say farewell to the last veterans of World War II.

About 2 million U.S. veterans of that conflict remain from among the more than 16 million who served between 1941 and 1945.

Most World War II veterans are in their mid-80s and, as a result, their number is declining rapidly. Nevertheless, the VA estimates that about 57,000 World War veterans will be alive in 2025, the last year for which the federal agency has made a projection.

Of the 5.7 million men and women who were in the armed forces during the time of the Korean War, about 2.5 million are alive. The VA estimates that 1.8 million men and women served in Korea.

About 8.7 million Americans were in the armed forces during the Vietnam-War era, with 3.4 million deployed in Southeast Asia. There are 7.8 million living veterans from that period.

Of the 2.32 million men and women who served during the time of the first Gulf War -- Desert Storm and Desert Shield -- in 1990 and 1991, about 3 percent -- approximately 70,000 -- have died.

VA statistics on veterans of America's wars include at least two unlikely facts.

While the last veterans of the Civil War have been gone for more than a half-century, two of their children are still listed on benefit rolls.

Even more surprising, perhaps, is that the government reports that 82 parents of World War II service members are receiving benefits.

-- Len Barcousky


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