The Right Coast
April 15, 2005
By Gail Heriot
I'm visiting my mother in Virginia this weekend. And, at least if you're like my mother and her friends, the cool thing to do around here on a Friday night is to go to the American Legion Hall for dinner. The two of us therefore trooped over at six o'clock; early is necessary if you want a good table. "You'll notice that almost everyone here is old like me," she whispered in my ear a bit regretfully. Well, yes, but rather than regretting it, it's a fact to be celebrated. The United States hasn't had to engage in total war since WWII. Not every country has been so lucky. And, as a result, the veterans who join the American Legion are disproportionately (although by no means exclusively) a bit long in the tooth.
The figures from the New York Times World Almanac (2005 edition) really drive the point home. It gives the number serving in the United States military for each war: 16,353,659 (WWII), 5,764,143 (Korea), 8,752,000 (Vietnam), 467,939 (Persian Gulf) and 269,363 (Iraq as of September 2004).
Here's hoping our luck holds up. (By the way, Mom and her friends are right. The food was pretty darn good and for $10 you can't beat it.)