From Overseas to Back Home: A Glimpse at the Veterans in Oregon’s Counties

by Kale Donnelly

November 8, 2017

The State of Oregon is home to roughly 307,000 veterans – almost 10 percent of the statewide population age 18 years or over – all spanning different periods of service. When it comes to eras of war, the largest share of veterans are those who served in Vietnam (39%), followed by the Gulf War from 1990 to 2001 (15%), the Gulf War from 2001 or later (10%), the Korean War (10%), and World War II (7%).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some counties have a much higher share of veterans within their population than others. The counties topping the list are Curry (17%), Gilliam (17%), and Douglas (16%) counties. The counties with the least relative amount of veterans include Multnomah, Hood River, and Benton counties (7% each). Given that the lion’s share of veterans in Oregon served in the Vietnam War, these numbers may be indicative of the pattern where rural counties typically have a higher median age than urban counties.

The three counties with the greatest share of veterans have a median age roughly eight to 22 years higher than counties with lower shares of veterans, depending on how the comparisons are drawn. Since Vietnam veterans would be 69 years old at a minimum (given the first U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965 and the 17-year minimum age requirement for enlistment with parental consent) a greater share of veterans in rural counties would seem to coincide with a higher median age in those very same counties. In other words, veterans aren’t steering clear of the urban or metro areas. There just seems to be an aligned preference amongst older civilians and older veterans in living further away from the heavily populated urban areas of the state.

As Veteran’s Day approaches, I wanted to visualize just how greatly these men and women are an integral part of our communities throughout Oregon. My grandfather, my uncle, my best friend, and multiple coworkers of mine are all veterans and contributing members to their communities. While veterans across our state and the nation didn’t serve specifically for the recognition, I’m sure they would enjoy any appreciation extended to them this November 11th.

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