What is a Veteran?

By | November 10, 2021

[November 10, 2021]  I was handed the answer to a common question.  What is a Veteran?  The answer is by Father Denis Edward O’Brien.  While I could not confirm Father O’Brien actually wrote this, I did find the answer enlightening.  In preparation for Veterans Day tomorrow, I thought this most appropriate.

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg – or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can’t tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She – or he – is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another – or didn’t come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat – but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade – riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket – palsied now and aggravatingly slow – who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being – a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, the greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded. Two little words that mean a lot.


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “What is a Veteran?

  1. Qassim

    For those who do not respect our flag and our veterans, shame on you. You will be talked about forever as a worm that cannot reproduce.

  2. Rusty D

    It is always a great pleasure to come to this website and read so many positive things our those who help led our country. Yes, I know that there are many who are not up the task of being a leader (we know who they are) but normally those who cannot do the job will step down. When they don’t, there is a serious problem and we are seeing that in the highest government offices today. They cause enormous destruction that will last a long time. And, they divide people. Sad.

    1. Silly Man

      True enough. That is why cheating to get elected has such serious consequences, many are unexpected. That is how evil begins.

  3. ZB22

    What is a Veteran?
    A veteran is defined by federal law, moral code and military service as “Any, Any, Any”… A military veteran is Any person who served for Any length of time in Any military service branch (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Certain Coast Guard personnel operating under the War Dept, Navy Dept or Dept of Defense are also military veterans.) However, other uniform-wearing agencies that are allowed some military benefits by the Veterans Administration are not military veterans (Public Health Service, Merchant Marine, etc.) Additionally, spouses and children of military veterans allowed some benefits by the VA are not military veterans.

    1. Cat A Miss

      What is a Combat Veteran? A combat veteran is any GI who experiences any level of hostility for any duration resulting from offensive, defensive or friendly fire military action involving a real or perceived enemy in any pre- or post-designated theater of combat (war) operations.

    2. Erleldech

      Good info, thanks. But it looks like the definition varies a bit over time and by military service. No wonder so many are confused but the one noted by ZB22 is the best I’ve read.

        1. British Citizen

          As long as our vets are fighting for freedom like American, our Brits, and others, I must concur.

  4. Guns are Us

    Like to many nations, we are privileged to honor our veterans. Who they are, are not a stereotype that was so common in the 1960 anti-veteran protests. That is why so many like stupid politicians degrade them. Shame on our politicians.

  5. Lady Hawk

    What does it take to be a veteran? Who is a veteran? How do we reward and encourage our veterans? These are important questions that must be answered and answered soon. Thanks to all who support our veterans.

    1. Willie Strumburger

      Yes, questions that must be answered. The answers tell us much about what we are as a nation and as a community of those who do good.

  6. Doug Smith

    Thanks again for what you do for our vets and for our military to ensure they remain strong and resilient. That is what being a good citizen is about.

  7. Rev. Michael Cain

    Enjoyable. Thanks Gen. Satterfield, I look forward to reading your Veterans Day Message tomorrow. I pray for our veterans every day.


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