U.S. Guard and Reserve Members are Officially ‘Veterans’
How do you define a veteran? It’s a question many of us probably never considered. But for millions of retired National Guard members and Army Reservists, it is a matter of great honor. Up until recently – December 2016 to be exact – they couldn’t officially call themselves “veterans” unless they had served at least 180 days of active duty on federal orders. Regardless of how much time you devoted to honorably supporting the Armed Forces, how many hours of training or deployments they experienced, there always remained a delineation line between full-time soldiers and reservists.
For many reservists, this felt like a bit of a slight, since they had willingly volunteered countless hours of their lives to prepare to serve if needed, to fill any empty roles left when full-time servicemen and women were deployed, and to basically complete any task asked of them. It was understandably strange to have dedicated so much of one’s life to the U.S. Armed Forces, and yet not be entitled to call oneself a veteran.
All this changed at the end of 2016, when President Barack Obama signed into law the Miller-Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Act, a bill aimed at improving veterans’ access to health care, disability benefits, education, and homelessness assistance, among other important benefits for U.S. veterans. One measure included in the bill changed the guidelines for who could be officially called a “veteran,” expanding the government’s definition to include Guard and Reservists who have honorably served for at least 20 years.
While there is no financial benefit associated with this change – retired Guard members would already be collecting their reserve component retirement benefits after 20 years of service – many feel this change exhibits the government’s understanding of and appreciation for the role that Nation Guard members and reservists play in supporting the larger infrastructure of the U.S. armed forces. Additionally, long-serving reservists and Guard members no longer have to worry about whether or not they can officially call themselves “veterans,” but instead accept this gesture as confirmation of how important their roles have been in global conflicts for decades.
The National Guard of the United States is composed of National Guard military members or units of each state and territory in the United States. Members are citizen-soldiers who train part time, close to home, until needed, typically maintaining civilian jobs during the work week. The Guard is under dual control from state and federal governments, and mobilizes to protect U.S. domestic interests in times of conflict or natural disaster. Members may be deployed internationally alongside full-time troops as needed. Today's National Guard consists of approximately 384,422 troops.
The U.S. Army Reserve provides operational capability and strategic depth to the larger Army, accounting for 20% of the Army’s maneuver support and delivering significant Army mobilization and expansion capability. When not on active duty, reserve soldiers typically perform Battle Assembly training/service once a month and for two continuous Annual Training weeks at some time during the year.
Today, retired reservists and National Guard members can hold their heads a little higher, knowing that the U.S. government has officially declared what they have always known. They served their country proudly and honorably, their work was important the success of countless U.S. military operations through the decades, and that they stood ready to protect this republic.
Written By Megan Hammons