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Thread: Veteran terminology

  1. #1
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    Veteran terminology

    Yesterday a woman of my acquaintance referred to herself as a "Korean War Veteran" which sort of surprised me. She was just over 18 when the Korean Conflict began and just over 21 when it ended. She served in the Air Force Reserve and was never deployed outside the U.S. Without denigrating the invaluable service of Reserve forces in all branches of the military, her terminology is a little troubling to me. When I hear the terms "Iraqi veteran", "World War II veteran", "Vietnam War veteran", or "Korean War veteran" I think of people who actually served in those theaters, in combat or non-combat roles. My FIL was stationed in Japan and my BIL was in Hanoi.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Soupandstew View Post
    Yesterday a woman of my acquaintance referred to herself as a "Korean War Veteran" which sort of surprised me. She was just over 18 when the Korean Conflict began and just over 21 when it ended. She served in the Air Force Reserve and was never deployed outside the U.S. Without denigrating the invaluable service of Reserve forces in all branches of the military, her terminology is a little troubling to me. When I hear the terms "Iraqi veteran", "World War II veteran", "Vietnam War veteran", or "Korean War veteran" I think of people who actually served in those theaters, in combat or non-combat roles. My FIL was stationed in Japan and my BIL was in Hanoi.

    What do you think?
    My father was drafted during Vietnam, trained as an MP and served stateside as a prison guard in the stockade. He never served overseas. I definitely consider him to be a Vietnam War vet.

  3. #3
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    Both of my parents were/are vets. Dad in Europe, Mom , a stateside Marine. Yep, they're vets.

  4. #4
    I don't think anyone except those who served in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea or Afghanistan are veterans of those wars. To me the term Vietnam Vet means someone who actually served a tour of duty in Vietnam. I would find it equally odd if I found out that someone said they were a veteran of the Iraq war and had never actually been deployed in that area - or was in any way involved in any way other than having been in the Armed Services for a certain time period.

    I think most people assume the same thing because these are wars with limited involvement and so someone could be in the Armed Forces and not serve in a war zone.

    The military treats their personnel differently as there are differential payments for actually serving in a combat zone.

    I think World War II is quite a bit different since there was such a massive involvement of the military so that there isn't the same demarcation.

  5. #5
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    By definition, if you served in the military during a time of war/conflict...you are a vet of that war/conflict. It doesn't matter where you served. You could separate them into those who saw action vs those who didn't see action.
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  6. #6
    Even if they are not in the war zone they are doing an important job here at home (probably not their home since the military sends you all over, I mean US soil or an overseas US base). They might be supporting operations of those on the ground, cooking food for those about to go into war, giving medical care to the wounded... It would hurt me to think that my job was deemed less important just because of my locality.

  7. #7
    I know people who refer to themselves as Vietnam Era vets to distinguish themselves from vets who were actually in-country during Vietnam.
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    Elizabeth

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  8. #8
    While all members of the Armed Forces have important roles, the Armed Forces itself differentiates between those serving in designated combat zones and those who are not in the theatre of war directly.

    There is tax free "combat pay". I also think there are certain service awards and designations for serving in a combat zone.

    As someone posted above, Vietnam era vet is quite a bit more description than Vietnam vet because those personnel who actually served in combat in Vietnam had quite a different experience than someone assigned to Europe.

    I would find it disingenuous if someone claimed to be a "Vietnam vet" and I later found out that they had served in the military far from Vietnam whereas the description of "Vietnam Era Vet" would be completely accurate to me. I wouldn't think "less" of the person but would actually admire their being honest about it.

  9. #9
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    My understanding is that any military member is a veteran but a war veteran is a special classification. In this case naming a war (rather than calling it an era) seems to be somewhat misleading.


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  10. #10
    Veteran here, and I suppose I have a bit to say about this.
    Reservists know they can be called to full time duty at a moment's notice. Thus being ripped from their regular job, family, etc. Full time military, that's their job day in and day out. However, all play an important role in the military. Any branch. Reservists are there as backup, or to run day to day things at bases and installations that are low on full timers since the full timers might be off fighting somewhere. So even though they might normally only do a weekend a month and 2 weeks a year, that could change in an instant. They are very important.

    Regarding Korea. Korea was not a war, it was a "conflict". Don't ask me what the difference is, I don't know. However, all who served from 1950 to 1953 are Korea veterans. Your friend's use of the word "war" is incorrect, but she is a veteran of that conflict. There is no distinction between who was in Korea and who wasn't.

    Regarding "Vietnam Era". Anyone who was in the military from 1961 until 1975 is a Vietnam Era vet. There is no verbal distinction between those who were in Vietnam and those who weren't. It's all Vietnam Era. However, for those who were actually in Vietnam, for benefits purposes, they get to use the entire 1961 until 1975 years. For those who weren't actually in Vietnam, their years are 1964 to 1975. Benefits are a bit different depending on years served.

    Now, from a personal standpoint I am a Vietnam era vet by one month. I got in during the last month of the era that ended in 1975. May, I believe. However, I served 5 years on Submarines. I was on a submarine patrolling the Gulf of Oman during the first hostage crisis. My submarine also picked up Vietnamese refugees from a disabled ship and took them to safe harbor. We sunk their disabled ship with signal flares. So, did I take advantage of the benefits that were offered me as a Vietnam Era veteran? Of course I did. It pretty much was a check box in a job application asking if I was a Vietnam Era veteran. I think, at the time, it gave a bit of priority to those vets looking for work. Fortunately I had learned a skill in the Navy that was easily transferrable to the outside world.

    So this all comes to, if someone claims to be a certain veteran from a certain time period, they deserve all the respect in the world. Especially if they were in any way associated with a war, conflict, or just helping maintain a certain amount of security. Or even if they were "between wars".

    Those who paid the ultimate sacrifice deserve even more.

    But none deserve to be thought less of, terminology aside.

  11. #11
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    Thank you to everyone who weighed in on this issue; I truly appreciate the explanations and clarifications. Certainly all members of the Armed Services are worthy of our respect and appreciation.

  12. #12
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    This message board needs a like button. I agree with Hammster. My ex served on a sub also, Ham, during Vietnam. I think of him as a vet even though he didn't see conflict as most people think of it. Those were tough years.
    Suzanne

  13. #13
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    I think Congress has to declare 'war' before it legally becomes a war versus a conflict.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1grl1by View Post
    I know people who refer to themselves as Vietnam Era vets to distinguish themselves from vets who were actually in-country during Vietnam.
    My husband spent two years in Vietnam and he agrees with this. He said very strongly that unless you fought in-country you are not considered a Vietnam vet. A Vietnam Era vet, yes, but not a Vietnam vet.

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