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American World War I veteran on Veterans Day 1982

Veteran (from Latin veteranus "veteran soldier") is a term for a veteran soldier . War veterans are also used in the case of former war veterans . In Germany, every soldier who is active in the Bundeswehr or who has left it honorably is a veteran.

In a broader sense, veteran is a term for someone who has proven himself over a long period of "service", for example. This is also the colloquial term for company or club veterans.


Veterans in the Roman Empire

In the Roman Empire , veterans were soldiers who had completed their service period of mostly 20 years and had been dismissed, or who remained with the army as so-called evocati . The fighting strength of Caesar's veteran legions, the iron men, was feared. While in republican times a civil army was raised in the event of war and immediately disbanded after the end of the campaign, it was established in the 2nd / 1st century BC. Chr. Gradually, the professional army by (army reform the Gaius Marius ). The professional soldiers , who were engaged for a certain period of time, were allocated arable land in the provinces after they had finished their service . Since the supply of the veterans was guaranteed by the respective generals , the veterans regarded themselves as belonging to his clientele and thus formed a power factor that was particularly important in the civil wars . In some cases, since Pompey , they were recalled to the service as Evocatus , which was considered a special privilege.

Veterans in the modern age

Red Army veterans on Victory Day 2013

Depending on the country, the modern term veteran is narrower or broader. In Norway and Denmark , only those who have taken part in a foreign assignment are considered veterans (Scandinavian model). In the UK and US , anyone who has served in the armed forces is considered a veteran (Anglo-American model).

Today's veteran system, in particular many traditional war clubs or veterans clubs in Germany, goes back to the time of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Even today, participants in one of the two world wars of the 20th century are referred to as war veterans , as is the case with the Vietnam War . Numerous veterans' associations take care of comradeship and problems that arose from participating in the war. Some clubs are also politically active. Many veterans have suffered war trauma that is now recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but can also have other physical and psychological causes. When returning from the two world wars, different variants of tremor occurred, often called “the tremor” in the vernacular . The suicide rate is higher among veterans than among other populations. This was evident, for example, after the two Iraq wars and among those returning from Afghanistan. One in ten British convicts and one in four American homeless people are veterans.

  • The lawyer Erich Kästner (not to be confused with the author of the same name ), who died in January 2008 at the age of 107 , is considered the last surviving German participant of the First World War who belonged to a unit of the army of the German Reich .
  • Lazare Ponticelli († March 12, 2008 in Le Kremlin-Bicêtre) was the last surviving World War I veteran with French citizenship.
  • Franz Künstler, born in 1900 in southern Hungary (now Romania), died on May 27, 2008 as the last veteran of the First World War of the Austro- Hungarian Army .
  • The last Ottoman World War I veteran, Yakup Satar, died on April 2, 2008 at the age of 110.
  • As the last living member of the British Army of the First World War (The last fighting Tommy ) and also the oldest living man in Europe, Harry Patch died on July 25, 2009 at the age of 111.
  • The last World War I veteran from Canada was John Babcock; he died on February 19, 2010.
  • The last US veteran of the First World War died on February 27, 2011 at the age of 110, the American Frank Buckles .
  • The last combatant Claude Stanley Choules of the Royal Navy and thus also the last male veteran of the First World War died on May 5, 2011 at the age of 110 in Perth, Australia.
  • The allegedly last living World War I veteran was Florence Green , who worked as a stewardess in a Royal Air Force officers' mess. She died on February 4, 2012 at the age of 110.


Cover letter including Bundeswehr veteran badge

In Germany there is currently no legally regulated veteran concept. The term veteran has been defined as follows since 2018: "A Bundeswehr veteran is anyone who is a soldier in the Bundeswehr in active service or who has left this service with honor, i.e. who has not lost his rank." 10 million veterans (as of 2018).

social benefits

Veterans are entitled to family care before and during the deployment, medical treatment after the deployment, financial compensation for injuries suffered and educational measures before leaving the armed forces.

Social recognition

Interest groups such as the Federal Armed Forces Association , the Reservist Association and the Association of German Veterans are committed to social recognition of veterans . Germany is also aiming to host the Invictus Games . On June 15, 2019, on the occasion of the Federal Armed Forces Day, the veteran's badge was awarded for the first time at Faßberg Air Base . So far there has not been a veterans day.


In France , the veteran concept is regulated by law in the Code des pensions militaires d'invalidité et des victimes de la guerre . French law only knows the term former fighter. It understands this to mean around 3 million soldiers and civilians (as of 2016), who each have to meet various requirements in order to receive a combatant ID card or the title of “recognition of the nation”. More claims are derived from the combatant ID card than from the title “Recognition of the Nation”.

social benefits

Former fighters with combatant ID are entitled to pension surcharges, tax deductions, access to the services of the Office national des anciens combattants et victimes de guerre and, in the event of death, the right to have the coffin covered with the national flag at the funeral service . Former Nation Recognition Fighters are eligible for supplementary life insurance.

Social recognition

The generation change and the low presence of veterans are currently a challenge for social recognition. The government wants to counter this by making it easier to obtain the combatant ID, greater support for veterans organizations and greater recognition of veterans (e.g. with a memorial ).


In the Netherlands , the veteran concept is legally regulated in the Veteranenwet and Veteranenbesluit . The term veteran is defined as follows: "The military, the former military or the former conscript who [...] served the Kingdom of the Netherlands under war conditions and / or took part in a mission to manage or promote the international legal order, insofar as this mission was ordered by the Minister of Defense. ”According to this, there are around 115,000 veterans (as of 2016).

social benefits

Veterans are entitled to social-medical accompaniment, help in finding a job and support in organizing or participating in veterans' meetings.

Social recognition

The public and private veterans' system is interlinked to strengthen social recognition. There are several initiatives that recognize the merits of veterans, such as the celebration of Veterans Day on the last Saturday in June and the award of veterans badges. In addition, foundations (veterans institute, veterans day, veterans platform) and veterans homes are supported.

United Kingdom

In the UK , the concept of veterans is regulated by law in the Armed Forces Covenant and Armed Forces Act . The term veteran is defined as follows: "A veteran is anyone who has ever served in Her Majesty's armed forces , regardless of age or length of service." According to this, there are around 2.6 million veterans (as of 2015).

social benefits

Veterans and, in some cases, their dependents are entitled to a wide range of government benefits. These include real estate tax deductions, housing allowances, issuance of a veteran's card (e.g. for free or discounted use of public transport and other facilities), child benefit supplements and loans from parents, unemployment benefit supplements and preferential access to the state health system .

Social recognition

Due to the royal house and politics, veterans enjoy high social recognition and strong public appreciation. There are numerous donation-funded charities such as the Royal British Legion . Medals and decorations are often given to former soldiers. Every year on the last Saturday in June, Armed Forces Day is celebrated as a day of honor for the armed forces and veterans.

United States

In the United States , the concept of veterans is regulated by law in the 38 United States Code and 38 Code of Federal Regulations . The term veteran is defined as follows: "A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable." According to this, there are around 21 million veterans (as of 2017).

social benefits

Veterans are entitled to status independent benefits. These include pensions, medical care, insurance, education and integration measures, in some cases also for relatives, real estate loans, survivors' assistance, awards and badges as well as transitional benefits.

Social recognition

Veterans enjoy broad recognition through a publicly coordinated veterans' system and advocacy group. There are numerous organizations such as the American Legion and events such as Veterans Day on November 11th that promote the social recognition of veterans. This is also reflected in the benefits granted by private institutions (e.g. shopping discounts in supermarkets).

See also


  • Kryzsztof Królczyk: Tituli Veteranorum. Veteran inscriptions from the Danube provinces of the Roman Empire (1st – 3rd century AD) = Inscrypcje weteranów z prowincji naddunajskich Cesarstwa Rzymskiego (I - III w. Po Chr.). Wydawnictwo Contact, Poznań 2005, ISBN 83-917505-7-4 , ( Xenia Posnaniensia Monograph 6).
  • Hans-Christian Schneider: The problem of the veterans' supply in the later Roman republic. Habelt, Bonn 1977, ISBN 3-7749-1425-7 , (also: Münster (Westphalia), dissertation, 1975).
  • Federal Ministry of Defense: A Veterans Policy for the Bundeswehr. Discussion paper. Berlin, 2012. ( Link )
  • Marcel Bohnert and Björn Schreiber: The invisible veterans. War returnees in German society. Miles, Berlin 2016.
  • German Bundestag: Veteran Concepts in Selected Countries. Comparative representation. Scientific Services, 2017. ( Link )
  • Christian Weber: Is every soldier a veteran? A critical analysis of the veterans definition of the day of memorial 2018. Federal Academy for Security Policy, Security Policy Working Paper, No. 32/2018. ( Link )

Web links

Wiktionary: Veteran  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Veterans  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. ^ US Department of Veterans Affairs - Mental Health ,
  3. Ronja von Wurmb-Seibel: Bundeswehr: "... then new ones will come again". In: June 21, 2012, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  4. ^ Last US veteran of World War I dies., archived from the original on March 4, 2011 ; accessed on March 2, 2011 .
  5. Last known World War I combatant dies at 110., accessed on May 5, 2011 (English).
  6. At 108, Florence Green is Britain's oldest war vet. Lynn, archived from the original on December 6, 2016 ; accessed on May 5, 2011 .
  9. Questions and answers about the new veteran's badge. Retrieved June 21, 2019 .