Veterans Day 2019 is rapidly approaching. I offer this, a condensed version of a doctoral dissertation I composed in another life (maybe). And speaking of Veterans Day:

Who is a veteran?

I often get asked, “am I a veteran?" There are state and federal statutes that define legally what or who a veteran is, but generally, veterans are people who served in the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard) and wore the uniform of their respective military service in times of war or peace.

State definition

Minnesota Statute 197.447 defines a veteran as a “citizen of the United States or a resident alien who has been separated under honorable conditions from any branch of the armed forces of the United States after having served on active duty for 181 consecutive days or by reason of disability incurred while serving on active duty, or who has met the minimum active duty requirement as defined by Code of Federal Regulations, title 38, section 3.12a, or who has active military service certified under section 401, Public Law 95-202. The active military service (for other than training) must be certified by the United States Secretary of Defense as active military service and a discharge under honorable conditions must be issued by the Secretary."

Therefore, to be eligible for any veteran program with the state of Minnesota, you must meet the definition contained in this statute.

Federal definition

Title 38 United States Code section 3.1(d) states: “Veteran means a person who has served in the active military, naval, or air service who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. On the surface, this seems simple enough. However, different VA programs have special service requirements. For example, entitlement to non-service connected pension benefits requires that a Veteran serve a minimum of 90 days active duty and be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. One day of this service must have been during a federally defined period of war.”

How many veterans are there?

There are approximately 18.2 million veterans in the U.S. In Minnesota, approximately 327,000.

Lake County, sparsely populated as it is, has about 1,095, indicating 9.56% of our population are veterans, and more come forward to be identified and enrolled; currently, they’re not counted. Add family members and associates and the number rises to about 5,000.

What is Veterans Day about?

The United States of America celebrates Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, now Veterans Day, to commemorate the ending of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

World War I, known as "The Great War" or "the war to end all wars," officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice or temporary cease fire between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of "the war to end all wars."

How can Veterans Day be observed?

If you meet someone, or know someone who is a veteran, remember not all veterans want recognition for their military service. If you feel the need to say something, approach, and in a courteous way, tell them, very simply: "Thank you for your service." No more, no less.

Maybe ask a veteran you know to spend some time with them, and if they're willing to talk about their experiences, listen, because once a veteran is gone, their experiences and insights are gone with them if they're not recorded somehow. Attend a Veterans Day program in your local area.

In Lake County, here is a partial list of events available at press time (check local sources for others):

  • Monday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. (Veterans Day) — Minnesota Veterans Home, Silver Bay. Music and speaker.

  • Monday, Nov. 11, 2:30 p.m. — William Kelley High School, Silver Bay. Speaker.

  • Monday, Nov. 11, 4:30-6:30 p.m. — Silver Bay Veterans Soup Dinner, William Kelley High School cafeteria. Soups donated by local restaurants. Cost $6 per bowl, $10 all-year-can-eat. Includes bread, dessert and beverage. All proceeds benefit WKHS After-Prom.

  • Monday, Nov. 11 — Annual Veterans Day dinner, American Legion Post 109, Two Harbors. Doors close to public at 4 p.m.; hors d'oeuvres, 4:30 p.m.; dinner, 6 p.m. Program scheduled: Speakers from 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth. All veterans welcome. Veterans: Have verification of military service or veteran status (national veteran service organization membership card, veterans health or national ID card, DD 214 and picture ID, etc.). Without the ID to prove veteran status, any Audie Murphy or Mary Poppins could come in and say “I’m a veteran." And they’d eat your dinner.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m. — Minnehaha Elementary School Veterans Day Program, school gym, Two Harbors. Speaker.

  • Saturday, Nov. 16, 6 p.m. — Chili feed, Isabella Community Center. Veterans eat free; all others suggested donation. Chili feed with all the fixings. Everyone is welcome.

If I’ve omitted an event, it was unintentional. I will fall on my sword at a later date.

Please take the time to reflect on the meaning of the day and enjoy the holiday. Probably see you at an event or two.

N.V. "Vince" Sando is the veteran service officer for Lake County. He can be reached at 218-834-8326.