Not very, according to The Atlantic’s current cover story, which asserts that “however much Americans ‘support’ and ‘respect’ their troops, they are not involved with them, and that disengagement inevitably leads to dangerous decisions the public barely notices.” It wasn’t always this way: At least 3 out of 4 Americans born before 1955 had a parent, spouse, sibling, or child who served in the military; for those born since 1980, the number is only 1 in 3.
The article’s interactive map enables readers to view military enlistment rates by 3-digit ZIP code prefixes. Almost everyone in King County lives in the 981- or 980- ZIP codes. For 981- ZIP codes (Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Burien, Tukwila, Renton-North, Normandy Park, Des Moines, and SeaTac), per capita enlistment from 2000 to 2010 was 19.6 per 1,000 population (38,295 individuals). For 980- ZIP codes (everyplace else except the northeast corner of the county), the number of enlistees was lower (16,550), but the enlistment rate was 1.5 times higher – 29.9 per 1,000 population, suggesting that Seattle residents are less likely than those in other parts of the county to have close family connections to active-duty military.
A 2013 report from King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) shows a similar pattern for veterans, with almost three-quarters of the county’s 127,000 veterans living outside Seattle.
While most Communities Count analyses found no differences by military status, a couple of results are worth noting. First, veterans were significantly less likely than non-veterans to report that they experienced discrimination during the past year. This suggests that “support and respect” for the military is alive and well in King County. Another notable finding, while not surprising, was that veterans had a higher rate of disability than non-veterans. According to the DCHS report, it’s likely that more than 20,000 King County veterans have experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with as many as 12,000 reluctant to seek treatment or support.
King County’s Veterans and Human Services Levy has improved the quality of many lives by increasing access to veterans’ services in South King County and increasing PTSD community education and professional training. The Atlantic’s cover story suggests, though, that our military needs more than reverence and services: It needs the public and its elected representatives to become engaged enough to insist on accountability for high-level decisions that put our soldiers at risk in endless, expensive, and possibly unwinnable wars.