America’s first military, the “Minutemen” militia, were shopkeepers, craftsmen, farmers, etc. Today we call them small business owners, but they were our first veterans.
Defining a veteran today is more complicated because there are multiple uses of the term. The Veterans Administration understandably has a strict, technical definition because it’s responsible for dispersing VA benefits. The classic definition is someone who has served on active duty for more than six months. But what about the volunteer service of the National Guard and Reserves?
For decades, National Guard members and Reservists have been comprised of two groups – those who deploy for an extended period and those who prepared themselves for a deployment. And since the Minutemen, America’s small business owners have been included in these ranks. But the past 20 years have required an extra degree of commitment from them because of the increased likelihood that they may have to leave their businesses for a deployment, possibly more than once.
Since 1990, two developments have created new expectations for America’s Guard and Reserves: 1) Three Middle East conflicts – Desert Storm, the Iraq War and the Afghan War – have combined for 20 years of deployments, so far; and 2) The increasing deployment expectations of Guard and Reserve units to augment declining regular armed forces numbers.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guard and Reserves have accounted for one-third of U.S. forces, and a comparable percentage of casualties. Many of these patriots have been deployed two, three or more times. The Rand Corporation reports, “Use of the Guard and Reserve has steadily increased since the first Gulf War and this trend is likely to continue.” Indeed, you can expect the efficiency of Guard and Reserve assets to figure even more heavily in America’s national security plans in the face of impending budget cuts.
So on this Veterans Day let’s honor all who have proudly volunteered to wear the uniform. This includes members of the Guard and Reserves who have deployed alongside the regular military, as well as those volunteers who weren’t deployed, but who trained and made themselves available to be deployed for years as their country needed them.
In the modern age of American national defense, if you wore the uniform of any of the armed forces you deserve to be called a veteran and receive the gratitude and recognition of a grateful nation.
Write this on a rock…It’s time to expand our definition of a veteran.
Jim Blasingame is one of the world's leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He is the creator and award-winning host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Small Business Advocate® Show. In addition to his weekly columns, Jim is the author of two books; Small Business is like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success.