Do You Have To Be Old To Be A Veteran?

On Saturday, the country honored its veterans.  November 11 was originally designated as “Armistice Day” in recognition of the date on which fighting in the First World War ended.  It became a legal holiday in 1938 only a few years before the United States’ entry into the Second World War in 1941.  52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a).  Shortly after the end of the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed November 11 as “Veterans Day” for the first time:

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. I also direct the appropriate officials of the Government to arrange for the display of the flag of the United States on all public buildings on Veterans Day.

Who qualifies as a “veteran” in California?  It turns out that California’s Military and Veterans Code has multiple, not entirely consistent definitions of the term (See Sections 890, 920, 940, 980, 987.003, 999, and 1010).

The term itself is derived from the Latin word veteres, meaning old.  The Romans, by and large, revered the customs and examples of their elders, especially those of the distant past.  For example, the great Roman lawyer, Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote “maiores nostri, veteres illi, admodum antiqui, leges annales non habebant (our elders, those ancestors of absolute antiquity, had no laws governing the age [for holding public offices])”.  In M. Antonium Oratio Philippica Quinta [the Fifth Oration Against M. Antonius aka the “Fifth Philipic”] § 47.

This post was written by Keith Paul Bishop of Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP., © 2010-2017
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