What is the definition of a veteran?
(Lake Worth, FL)
Many of us served in the National Guard or Reserves. Are we considered veterans in this case, authorizing us to salute the flag along with other veterans?
Most of us do not get veterans benefits, even if we served 20 years.
To us, however, we honorably served our country and should be considered veterans.
Alan, that's an excellent question, and one that comes up in many contexts.
Our personal opinion is that if you have served in the United States Armed Forces (including the Guard and Reserve), and you were discharged under honorable conditions, or you retired from military service, you have earned the right to pay your respects to the flag you served by rendering a military salute, if you so choose.
But that's just our opinion. There are lots of laws on the subject of veterans, and the definitions may be different, depending on the purpose of the law.
Federal law (United States Code, Title 38, Part 1, Section 101) says:
"For the purposes of this title—
. . .
(2) The term "veteran" means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service
, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable
. . ."
It later says:
(24) The term "active military, naval, or air service" includes—
(A) active duty;
(B) any period of active duty for training during which the individual concerned was disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty; and
(C) any period of inactive duty training during which the individual concerned was disabled or died—
(i) from an injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty; or
(ii) from an
acute myocardial infarction, a cardiac arrest, or a cerebrovascular accident occurring during such training."
It defines "active duty" as:
"(A) full-time duty in the Armed Forces, other than active duty for training;
. . .
(D) service as a cadet at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy . . . ."
As you can see, federal law makes a distinction between active duty, and active duty for training, which describes the service of many National Guard and Reserve members. Obviously, that distinction would not apply to those members of the Guard and Reserve who've served on extended active duty during the War on Terror.
But those regulations, as you mention, are for the purpose of determining eligibility for federal veterans benefits.
Various states have their own definitions of "veterans," which generally determine entitlement to state veterans benefits. Some say "honorably discharged or released," some say "discharged or released under other than dishonorable conditions," or "released from service by other than dishonorable discharge."
Again, those statutes are for the purpose of determining eligibility for government benefits.
Whether you're a veteran entitled to salute the flag, our view is that if you have honorably served, you have earned the right to salute the flag you served under.
Readers, do any of you have other opinions about this topic? If so, click below to post your comments.
Also see What is a Veteran?
And of course, there's this popular definition of a veteran:
"A Veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America' for an amount up to and including 'my life'."
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