What Makes a Veteran?

What does the word ‘veteran’ call to mind?

Veterans Day is about commemorating the service of all U.S. Veterans. It differs from Memorial Day, which honors the sacrifice of those who died in service, but rather celebrates the dedication and honor of all service men and women.

So what is a veteran?

There is no common definition to be found between offices of the government, organizations, and especially the individuals who often answer to this name.

It’s most commonly used for those who served in the military and have since left, or retired, but Veterans Day is about those who are STILL sacrificing too.

Veterans themselves do not take the word lightly. Some will not call themselves a veteran until they have served in an actual combat zone. The private regulations on what constitutes that status are many and varied.

Not serving in a combat zone, however, does not mean a veteran has not served their country. Take, for example, the doctors at Brooks Army Burn Center, who treat some of the worst burn cases in the country for both military and civilians.  There are many service members, and their families, who sacrifice every day without leaving the country.

It’s really something we must each define in our hearts, but whatever your standing definition of a veteran is, one fact is very clear. The service men and women, past and present, of this nation sacrifice personal safety, time with their families, and many of their own freedoms in order to protect our country. This dedication is to be celebrated and honored, but never forgotten, on Veterans Day or any other. It is only through constant vigilance that our nation can remain a great one.

In the words of Ronald Reagan:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”


Zoe Kahn

Zoe KahnZoe is a Marketing Student Worker at UCA’s Office of Outreach & Community Engagement. Zoe studies Public Relations at UCA. She is also a military spouse and is on the UCA Veterans Day Planning Committee. For information on the Veterans Day Celebration you can go to uca.edu/outreach/veteransday/.