Rural America has long been a crucial supplier of recruits and civilian personnel to the U.S. military. Rural America is also an essential source of cultural and political support for military activity. After their tours of duty have ended, many veterans return to rural communities where they continue to carry the values of their military experiences and extend military traditions into rural culture. Far away from the Pentagon and other corridors of military power live millions of geographically-dispersed rural veterans whose Veterans Administration benefits (cash payments, loans, medical care) and retirement pensions flow into, and become a crucial economic support of, rural communities. Using the state of Iowa as an illustrative case, we map the geographical concentration of veterans in rural communities. We then map the economic impacts of veterans on rural communities, tracing the labyrinth of ongoing financial transactions, medical services, and other benefits so important to the vitality of rural communities. We also map indicators of the cultural importance of veterans to rural communities and the role that veteran service organizations play in the maintenance of a rural culture that honors military service. Linkages between military service and the enduring values of patriotism are continually reinforced through a variety of community celebrations, events, and traditions that serve to make rural places fertile recruiting grounds for the armed services.

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