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Veteran often refers to retired soldiers. However, any member of the armed forces who has seen combat or has served for a long time can be described as a veteran.
History of Veterans
For most of history, states did not have any fixed standing army. Almost all warriors were farmers for the bulk of the year and thus had a secondary occupation to support them during times of peace. The first state to face significant veterans affairs problems was the Roman Empire whose professional army of career soldiers needed some new role when they retired. They were usually given land in the newly conquered lands, and the need for such lands motivated the empire's expansion.
Beyond giving veterans free or discounted lands in colonies, governments did little about them. There was little or no aid for veterans suffering mental of physical disabilities and those wounded in war often had to turn to begging or crime.
The treatment of veterans changed after the First World War. In the years following, discontented veterans became a source of instability. They could quickly organize, had links to the army, and often had arms themselves. Veterans played a central role in the post-World War I instability of Germany, while in the United States the Bonus Army of unemployed veterans was one of the most important protest movements of the Great Depression.
After the Second World War, in part due to the experience of the First World War, most of the participating states set up elaborate veterans administrations. These gave veterans access to free or subsidized education and health care. The explosion of the suburbs created sufficient housing for veterans and their families. In the United States, Black veterans continued to be denied equality, and they played a central role in the Civil Rights movement.
For the most part, veterans are treated with great respect in society. In France, for instance, those wounded in war are given the first claim on any seat on public transit. Most countries have a holiday such as Remembrance Day to honour veterans, along with the war dead. There are exceptions to this: veterans of unpopular wars, such as the Vietnam War, have been discriminated against. Others, such as veterans of minor conflicts, are often forgotten when compared with those who fought in the World Wars.
- American Legion (An organization of American veterans)
- Lists of Veterans
- List of veterans' organizations
- Royal Canadian Legion (Canada's organization supporting veterans worldwide)
- The Royal British Legion (The United Kingdom's veterans society, formed in 1921)
- United States Department of Veterans Affairs
- Veterans Day (An American holiday celebrating veterans)
- Vietnam veteran
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