Friday, May 1, 2015

So Just Exactly Who Is A Veteran, Anyway? To Me, Everybody Who Suited Up And Served Honorably Qualifies

     Didn't closely follow the South Dakota Legislature's revision of the definition of "veteran" during this year's session, but I'm basically okay with it. It came up as House Bill 1179 and
You Suited-Up For The USA?
In My Book That Makes You A Vet.
(photo from
passed both houses with huge majorities. The new law changed South Dakota's definition of a veteran from someone who "served on continuous federalized active military duty for a period of at least ninety days for reasons other than training" to those who have served "the full obligation for active duty, reserve or National Guard service in the military or received an early discharge for a medical condition, hardship, reduction in force or at the convenience of the military."  In both cases, separation from service had to be concluded "honorably or under honorable conditions."  

     Essentially, the Act swells the roster of South Dakota-recognized veterans to include all those who served in reserve or National Guard units.   It extends to all (about 25,000, according to a group opposed to the measure) the newly-defined veterans virtually all the rights, privileges and benefits (only specified exception being a bonus) that were previously accorded only to those who served what might be called a "conventional hitch."  With understandable reasons, some veterans who claim that status under the original definition don't like the change. They've formed a group, led by Theodore J. Fowler, called South Dakota Veterans for Veterans that is trying to get the new law referred to the voters, meaning they're now circulating petitions in hopes of getting the nearly 14,000 signatures necessary to block implementation until the law can be voted on in November 2016.  Fowler, a Vietnam-era U.S. Army veteran believes the costs associated with the extension of benefits to so many new enrollees is a matter that has not been adequately considered.  
     There doesn't seem to be much discussion about costs in any of the SD Legislature's publications about the progress of the bill, so I think Fowler and his group have a point.  There should be some clarification about the costs involved, and I expect some information about that to materialize soon after the Act takes effect--July 1 this year unless Fowler's group can get
Black Hills National Cemetery
Plenty Of These Folks Started As Reservists
(photo from
it deferred until next year's elections.  As a South Dakotan, I'm prepared to stand the costs that will be incurred. And as a veteran, I don't have a problem with the newly expanded definition of who my fellow veterans are. From my perspective as a Marine with a combat tour at the DMZ in Vietnam from 1966-1968, I appreciate anybody who has suited up with a uniform that says United States of America.  By definition, those people are willing to go out and fight if called upon to do so. That some actually get into a position to stop bullets while many others do not is no reason to discriminate among those who've served honorably.  History and circumstance determine who gets picked to do the many jobs required by service.  All who wear that uniform are ready to become warriors as soon as they take their oaths of induction or enlistment, regardless of branch, regardless of the terms of their service, active duty or reserve.

    Their willingness to do so is about as commendable an act of citizenship and patriotism as any I can think of.  Institutionalizing a show of appreciation for those folks by including them in the benefit pool of those we call "veterans" seems a worthy way for South Dakota to say "thanks."  


  1. "All who wear that uniform are ready to become warriors as soon as they take their oaths of induction or enlistment, regardless of branch, regardless of the terms of their service, active duty or reserve."

    I agree

  2. He won't say it. So I will. John JOINED the Marines at the height of the Vietnam War. He wasn't drafted.

    Brilliant article. They took the oath. They are veterans.