This Is the County Where the Most People Have Served in the Military

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. military has 1.3 million active-duty personnel. That is down from 1.9 million in 1973. Of the current figure, 35% are in the Army, 24% in the Navy and 24% in the Air Force.

India’s military is about the same size as America’s. Russia’s is larger at 1.5 million. China has the largest military at 2.8 million.

Why do people join the military? One of the most common reasons is to serve the country. On top of the more than 1.3 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 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 it found 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 communities across the country, but some parts of the country have considerably higher concentrations of military vets than others. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the county with the most veterans. Counties and county-equivalents, which can include independent cities, were ranked by the share of adult residents who are veterans.

It is important to note that while many veterans chose to enlist out of a sense of patriotic duty (including a considerable share of the 2.4 million who enlisted after 9/11), many living veterans did not choose to serve and were drafted into service during the Vietnam War.

The county with the most people who have served in the military is Geary County, Kansas. Here are the details:

  • Civilian adults who have served in the military: 25.6%
  • Veterans who first enlisted after 9/11: 46.5% (second highest of 3,032 counties)
  • Veterans who served in the Vietnam Era only: 13.2% (12th lowest)
  • Veterans who served during the Korean War only: 1.9% (135th lowest)

Methodology: To determine the county with the most veterans, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of the civilian population 18 years and over who are veterans from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey (ACS).

Counties and county-equivalents, which can include independent cities, were ranked based on the share of the population 18 and over who are veterans. To break ties, we used the number of veterans.

Counties were excluded if the share of veterans was not available in the 2020 ACS, if the civilian population 18 and over was less than 1,000, or if the sampling error associated with a county’s data was deemed too high.

The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation (a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is) for a county’s share of veterans was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean coefficient of variation for all counties’ veteran shares. We similarly excluded counties that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.

Additional information on the share of veterans who served after 9/11, in the Vietnam era and during the Korean War are also five-year estimates from the 2020 ACS.

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