Thirteen percent, or 2.3 million, of the U.S. veteran population was born outside the United States or are children of immigrants, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Among the foreign-born ex-recruits, natives of Mexico and the Philippines are by far the biggest groups, according to the U.S.-based survey. The size of the latter group might be a surprise for some Americans, but the U.S. and the Philippines share a long military history going back to World War II when the Southeast Asian country was considered a Commonwealth of the United States.
The real number of Philippines-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces can be expected to be even higher than indicated in the survey. The U.S. has not granted citizenship to most of those it recruited in the Philippines during World War II despite initially promising to do so, blocking a path to immigration and causing many to remain in their home country. Because of the Commonwealth status of the Philippines at the time, a sizable immigrant population consisting mainly of young men was already living in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of these enlisted as well and were granted citizenship. As a result, 12,000 out of the 69,000 U.S. veterans who were born in the Philippines and reside in the U.S. are currently over the age of 80.
The age of World War II veterans is also the reason why the number of Filipino vets of the U.S. forces has been dwindling. In 2018, there were still as many as 91,000. Yet, there are Philippines-born U.S. vets of all ages in the U.S. as immigration from the Philippines remained at a high level after independence.
Likewise, the number of German and British vets has been decreasing majorly in recent years. On the other hand, the number of veterans from the United States' neighbors, Mexico and Canada, has been growing.
The numbers taken from the U.S. Census Bureau's Annual Social and Economic Supplement and made available online by the University of Minnesota exclude veterans born to U.S. parents abroad.