Young Americans enlist in the armed services for many reasons, including the opportunity to gain new skills, get physically fit, and earn financial assistance to pay for college. One of the most common reasons, however, is to serve the country. On top of the more than 1.4 million active-duty service members in the military, the United States is home to over 17.8 million veterans.
The sacrifices veterans have made for the country often follow them long after their service. Nearly half of those who served after the terror attacks of 9/11 say they had an emotionally traumatic or distressing experience while serving, and about one in four of all veterans say readjusting to civilian life was at least somewhat difficult, according to a Pew Research study.
Still, the same study also found that over half of all veterans say their service provided them with useful skills and training for the civilian job market, and that veterans are less likely to live in poverty and more likely to have higher incomes than their nonveteran counterparts.
Veterans of the armed service reside in cities across the country, but some parts of the country have a considerably higher concentration of military vets than others.
Of the communities in Washington with populations of at least 25,000, Lakewood has the highest share of military veterans. There are about 47,000 civilians 18 and older residing in Lakewood, and 16.7% of them have a history of military service, compared to 8.9% of all civilian adults across the state as a whole. Nationwide, 7.1% of civilian adults are veterans.
It is important to note that while many veterans chose to enlist out of a sense of patriotic duty, many living veterans did not choose to serve and were drafted into service during the Vietnam War. In Lakewood, 25.9% of all veterans served only during the Vietnam Era.
Data in this story comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, and figures are five-year estimates. We used census “place” geographies — a category that includes incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities.
|State||City with the most veterans||Adult civilians who are veterans (%)||Adult civilians who are veterans in state (%)|
|South Carolina||Goose Creek||16.9||9.1|
|South Dakota||Rapid City||11.8||8.5|
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