The United States Department of Defense (DoD) consists of five branches. The Army was born first, June 14, 1775. From the DoD records (all active duty and reserve strength totals taken from their official files, dated May 31, 2017), 1,004,120 total personnel serve in the Army.

The Navy was made official Oct. 13, 1775. Some 380,741 sailors make up the strength total of this branch of service.

The Marine Corps was created Nov. 10, 1775 with a total strength of 221,590.

Aug. 4, 1790 saw the birth of the U.S. Coast Guard, which currently operates under the Department of Homeland Security, but may be transferred to the DoD under orders from the president at any time, or under orders of Congress during war time. At the present time, 47,368 serve in the Coast Guard.

The Air Force officially came into service Sept. 18, 1947, with a total of 493,458 currently serving.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was created to care for these men and women after separation from their military service. There are three components to the VA: Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA), Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) and National Cemetery Administration (NCA). All specific information can be found at va.gov.

The VHA is probably most recognized, providing health care for the estimated nine million veterans who have served. According to its website, there are 1,245 health centers, 170 medical centers and 1,065 outpatient sites serving all these veterans. This is an important service provided, for many of those treated might not otherwise have access to such quality care. Because veterans can have both physical and psychological issues not commonly seen in the civilian medical world, the VHA is set up to meet these challenges, using the most recent technology and practices available. Locally, the West Haven campus at 950 Campbell Avenue (off exit 43 on I-95) is the medical center for southern Connecticut. Being a patient at this facility, this writer can vouch for not only the quality of care, but the extra step all personnel, medical and non-medical, take with each patient.

The VBA administers programs that include compensation for service-connected disabilities, pensions, vocational training and employment, education/training, the G.I. bill, life insurance, home loans and transition assistance. These are all earned through service with the military, whether it is someone wounded and entitled to a disability claim, to those separating from the service and looking to use their benefits under the G.I. bill to further their education.

Finally, the NCA is responsible for not only the national cemeteries, but headstones, markers and medallions, Presidential Memorial Certificates, military honors (rendered at funeral), burial flags, burial allowance and survivor’s benefits. There are 135 national cemeteries in 35 states maintained by CNA. While there is no national cemetery in Connecticut, there are three state cemeteries: Col. Raymond F. Gates Memorial Cemetery in Rocky Hill, Connecticut State Veteran’s Cemetery in Middletown and Spring Grove Veteran’s Cemetery in Darien. This is a closed cemetery and no longer eligible for new burials.

Wilton’s James B. Whipple American Legion Post 86 is on Old Ridgefield Road in Wilton Center. Information: post86legion.org.


Tom Moore, Adjutant
American Legion Post 86