Let’s rethink the definition of a veteran

America’s first military, the “Minutemen” militia, were shopkeepers, craftsmen, farmers, etc. We would call them small business owners now, and they were our first veterans.

Today, there are many technical definitions of a “veteran”; most are associated with eligibility for VA benefits. The non-technical one is someone who has served on active duty for more than six months. But those whose orders read “Active duty for training” – like most National Guard members and Reservists – have not typically been included in this definition.

In the past two decades, two developments created new expectations for America’s Guard and Reserves: 1) Three conflicts, including Desert Storm (1990-91), the Afghanistan War (2001-Present) and the Iraqi War (2003-Present); and 2) The increasing practice of deploying Guard and Reserve units to augment inadequate regular force numbers.

According to the Rand Corporation, “Use of the Guard and Reserve has steadily increased since the first Gulf War and this trend is likely to continue.” Indeed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guard members and Reservists have accounted for one-third of U.S. forces, and a comparable percentage of casualties. As of August 2011, there were 91,367 Guard and Reserve members on extended deployment. And many of these patriots have been deployed two, three, and in some cases, four times in the past 20 years.

Consequently, since 1990, National Guard members and Reservists have been comprised of two groups – those who have experienced an extended active duty deployment and those who know they may have to deploy.

Since the Minutemen, America has been able to count on small business owners to volunteer for the militia. But developments of the past 20 years have required an extra degree of commitment because of the increased likelihood they may have to leave their businesses for an extended deployment, possibly more than once.

This Veterans Day, we honor all who served on active duty as a member of the U.S. military, including members of the Guard and Reserves who have deployed along-side members of the regular military. But isn’t it time we also recognize those who volunteered, trained, and stood by to be deployed as their country needed them?

In the modern age of U.S. military practices, if you wore a uniform of any of the armed forces, you deserve to receive the gratitude and recognition of a grateful nation.

It’s time to expand our definition of a veteran.

I talked more about veterans and Veterans Day, as well as career coaching for and hiring veterans on The Small Business Advocate Show. Click on one of these links to listen or download:

Helping veterans return to the workforce with Adrian Guglielmo

It’s time to expand the definition of “veteran” with Jim Blasingame

Career coaching for veterans with Caren Shaffer, Profiles International

Hiring a veterans could be a business best practice with Caren Shaffer, Profiles International

For more great SBA content, click HERE!

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