Bundestag resolution: Veterans Day: What does “appreciation” for soldiers mean specifically?

It is a project with big words: an annual national Veterans Day should ensure “comprehensive appreciation” of soldiers and “improve care for veterans and their families.

Bundestag resolution: Veterans Day: What does “appreciation” for soldiers mean specifically?

It is a project with big words: an annual national Veterans Day should ensure “comprehensive appreciation” of soldiers and “improve care for veterans and their families.” This is what it says in the application submitted by the traffic light parties and the Union and passed by the Bundestag this afternoon. So far, a lot is still open. Here is an overview of what is already certain.

As of 2018, the official definition of the word is very broad. This was introduced by the then Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen. Since then, “veterans” have been understood to mean all soldiers who are doing or have done military service. No matter whether in military conflicts, whether at home or abroad. Accordingly, there are over ten million veterans in Germany.

Appreciation for veterans should be expressed – from the “center of society.” For example, information campaigns are intended to educate the public about the work of soldiers. But it shouldn’t just be a matter of expressions of respect. The applicants are also calling for more money for care for veterans, especially for people who return from overseas deployments with mental or physical problems. For example, there should be better therapy options for them. The advice requirements should also be made more accessible and bureaucratic hurdles reduced.

In fact, veterans and associations such as the “Bund Deutscher EinsatzVeteranen e.V.” complain. lack of appreciation towards them for many years. Some see the introduction of Veterans Day as a sign of rethinking: After the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Germany is giving the Bundeswehr a more important role. At least something that didn't work in 2012 worked today: Back then, too, there was discussion about introducing a Veteran's Day. The then Defense Commissioner Hellmut Königshaus (FDP) and the then Federal Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) spoke out in favor of such a day - yet without success.

Because in 2019, the then Federal Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyen, awarded the veteran badge for the first time on this day. There is also criticism of the badge, for example because veterans have to apply for it themselves. The badge was actually purchased in 2013 - but was not awarded because associations and committees could not agree on a definition of "veterans". As mentioned above, this took place in 2018.

Union politician Kerstin Vieregge summed up the status of the debate in the Bundestag well: “We are all aware that the real work is still to come,” she said. Hardly anything is certain about the specific course of the day. According to the factions, a central event with a “folk festival character” will take place annually on June 15th near the Berlin Reichstag. The day is scheduled to be celebrated for the first time in 2025. Smaller events in the states and municipalities are also being considered. The patronage of Veterans Day will be assumed by Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD) for the first two years. The specific process is to be developed by, among others, the Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Högl (SPD), the Defense Committee, veterans' and social associations.

Veterans Days have a long tradition in Anglo-Saxon culture. In the USA the day is celebrated on November 11th and is a public holiday. In Great Britain, Armed Forces Day at the end of June is a national day of honor for the armed forces and veterans.

Sources: DPA, AFP, application for a national veteran, Federal Ministry of Defense: Daily order on the concept of veteran, working paper of the Federal Academy for Security Policy, Association of German Mission Veterans e.V.

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