Guest Author - Evelyn Rainey
You’ve seen the bumper stickers and worn the T-shirts. “I’m a Proud Veteran”. But you’ve also seen the cardboard signs held in the hands of a vagrant, “Homeless Vet, Please Help.” Some camps argue that “true” veterans are only those servicemen who fought in “real wars”, or “real wars and declared conflicts”, or are anyone who has served in the military.
So, what is a veteran?
Quite simply, veteran comes from the Latin word vetus which means old. O L D
I’m sure something was lost in translation, because the word veteran lends itself to venerable, too. Wise, specialized, tested and proved ready.
In the military world, veteran refers to someone who is or has served in the armed forces of any country.
Veterans are usually respected. Most countries have a day set aside to honor veterans (except Germany – Nazi veterans have no special Veterans Day). For decades after WWII, a wounded French veteran would be given a seat on the public transportation.
Veterans are also people who have had to put up with discrimination, abuse, and ridicule for their beliefs.
Did you know that Veterans helped shape the United States current history?
After WWI, unemployed vets became very important in the protest movement during the Great Depression. They belonged to a brotherhood which was nationwide and overlapped all political, economic and social boundaries. Veterans marched on Washington DC to get the bonus Congress had promised them. This “march” was the first of many to follow.
After WWII, veteran groups (specifically the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars ) pressed Congress and got the GI Bill enacted. This GI Bill, which made provisions for free or subsidized education and health care for veterans, was the lead cause of economic change and the birth of the middle class in the US. Newly educated soldiers were better equipped to find higher salaried jobs and therefore buy houses and spend money to a higher degree than seen before.
Veterans have also been instrumental in improving the rights of under-represented populations. The military was desegregated by President Harry S. Truman. Black veterans who balked under the inequalities they were expected to bear as they returned to civilian life became strong leaders and activists in the Civil Rights Movement of the ensuing decades. Women also tasted the sweetness of equality in the military and added their voices to the throng.
Who are the Veterans of the US? Movers, shakers, presidents, teachers, writers, dreamers, all ethnicities and any gender. They are also the homeless, the ill, the disposed, and the unemployed. No matter what their age, they are the old. They have seen things which aged them spiritually. Some veterans turned this experience into wisdom, and some into despair.
But the bottom line is that a veteran is the reason our country is the one people flock to, the one people escape to, the one people plead for sanctuary and asylum in.
We would not be America without them.