No, seriously, people. We have this debate in our house often! He says he's not, I say he is. A lot of people's definition of a veteran is someone who has served in a war. Yes, my husband an active duty U.S. Navy officer who served 41 months on a submarine and now sits behind a desk every day. Even though he did two deployments, he says he feels weird when people thank him for his service and claims he "didn't do anything." (He does respond with a simple "You're welcome" to strangers, though.) No, he has never set foot on Iraq or Afghani soil. His last deployment included a "blue-nosing," which means he crossed the Arctic Circle. Yeah, no wars going on up there currently, as far as I know. And he may or may not have earned the ribbon for the Global War on Terror from his first deployment - he still doesn't know (and probably never will). He refuses to even call himself a "sailor," since he insists he's simply an "officer" instead. That totally hinders my swag purchases, since those "I ♥ My Sailor" mugs are so ubiquitous (and B would seriously ROLL HIS EYES if I ever bought one).
Anyway, let's get back to the original topic here. So what is a veteran? According to Merriam-Webster, it is "a : an old soldier of long service b : a former member of the armed force." Alright, so he's neither of those, but give it two years and he'll qualify for the latter since he has no intention to be a "lifer." So after the dictionary, I turned to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, if for no other reason than to see if he'll qualify for a stint in one of their nursing homes later in life. While their site has lots of useful information about specific benefits, none of them really answered my question on a precise definition. I did some further digging and found this insanely helpful About.com article on the matter, with this lovely paragraph toward the top:
In actuality, there is no standardized legal definition of "military veteran" in the United States... Each time Congress passed a new law authorizing and creating a new veteran benefit, they included eligibility requirements for that particular benefit. Whether or not one is considered a "veteran" by the federal government depends entirely upon which veteran program or benefit one is applying for.Aha! Perfect. So I read further and started to get pretty excited to see the kinds of stuff my husband will qualify for the second he sets foot out into the big scary civilian world in a few years. VA Home Loans! Veteran's Preference for federal jobs! Military Funeral Honors (umm yeah, I don't think he'll want those, knowing him, but good to know)! The GI Bill! The list goes on, and most of them require only 24 months of active duty (check!) and no dishonorable discharge (reminder to B: don't do anything stupid in the next two years!).
Since he's technically not a veteran (yet) by those terms, I wanted to know if the ceremonies today would be honoring him as well. (Yes, I already know that the freebies and discounts are.) Can I thank him today, or should I wait until Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May? The National Veterans Day Ceremony conducted at Arlington National Cemetery this morning says it "is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces." I believe that does, in fact, honor and thank my husband, who has served and is serving still!
So thank you to all veterans who have served and are still serving our great nation!