Opinion: What is a veteran?


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“What is a veteran?” my 10-year-old grandson asked as he was trying to reconcile the picture of the 18-year-old soldier in the album with his 85-year-old grandfather sitting next to him.

“Did you have to wait to become old and be a grandfather to be a veteran?” he asked.

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“No,” I replied. “I enlisted in the United States Army when I was a teenager and served in the regular Army for four years during the Korean War.”

My 10-year-old has the ability to generate a plethora of questions for each answer I supplied. What started out as a simple question and answer period eventually became a multi-hour seminar. The youngster was satisfied with the answers he got and understood the meaning of the exhibits he viewed.


Understandably, it is difficult to discuss some subjects with a close young relative. All the situations encountered cannot be sugarcoated to be receptive by a young mind. War stories are often void of the true picture because the teller is reluctant to truly describe the action for a variety of reasons.

Nov. 11 was originally called Armistice Day to celebrate the end of the fighting in World War I. President Eisenhower signed the Order on June 1, 1954, changing the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Since the inception of this country, over 40 million people have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. We have all taken an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Those who served their commitment and were discharged “honorably” are called veterans.

My grandson now understands more of his heritage and our vested interest in our country.

Richard Pender is the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group. He can be reached at rapender@netzero.net

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