What is a Combat Veteran?

What is a Combat Veteran?

The VA states:

Veterans, including activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, are [Combat Veterans] if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations…and have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

[However, the above definition is for eligibility for VA benefits]

The American War Library states:

What is a Veteran? – A veteran is defined by federal law, moral code and military service as “Any, Any, Any”… A military veteran is Any person who served for Any length of time in Any military service branch.

What is a War Veteran? – A war veteran is Any GI (Government Issue) ordered to foreign soil or waters to participate in direct or support activity against an enemy. The operant condition: Any GI sent in harm’s way.

What is a Combat Veteran? – A combat veteran is Any GI who experiences any level of hostility for any duration resulting from offensive, defensive or friendly fire military action involving a real or perceived enemy in any foreign theater.  Wartime medals also define various levels of individual combat involvement, sacrifice and/or valor.

The above statements are pretty broad and do not adequately describe the troops of Charlie Company.  So here are my definitions of an Army Combat Veteran who served in Vietnam:

–          You were eligible and received a Combat Infantryman Badge.

–          You were eligible and received a Combat Medical Badge.

–          You may have received a Purple Heart.

–          You may have received various medals with V device for valor.

–          You were assigned to Charlie Company and humped the boonies.

Fast Freddy says:

if you lived behind wire, if you were in the rear echelon, if you slept in a bed, if you ate hot food, if you took hot showers, if you used a flush toilet, if you got laid regularly, you were NOT a Combat Veteran

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7 thoughts on “What is a Combat Veteran?

  1. Hey Fast Freddy,

    I was a 71H30 – personnel management specialist. The guy who slept in my bed before me was killed by a rocket. Does his purple heart make him a combat veteran? Three of our perimeter guards got hit by a RPG one night, all wounded, one lost a leg. Are they combat veterans? Two guards in a base nearby were killed, how about them? I spent 65 nights on guard duty, 10 sappers came at us one night while I was on guard. We caught them, our M-60s repelled them and our helicopters killed them all. Am I a “combat” veteran? My base, Dong Ba Thin, got hit by hundreds of rockets and mortars. We had men wounded and men killed by incoming as well as sappers. Everyone on my base was a combat veteran. A pretty good friend of mine was 11Bravo and in the Bush for 6 months and never once got shot at or shot at anybody. We all fought in that ugly war, Fast Freddy. Randy


  2. I served in Viet Nam from Feb 15, 1969 til March 31, 1970 with 1st BN, 12th Inf Reg, 4th Inf Div. I was a radio operator on several Fire Bases; LZ Mile High, LZ Nicole, LZ Penny, LZ Radcliff. We were shot at, We were shelled, and had sappers breach or defenses. I would consider myself a “Combat Vet”. Am I wrong?


  3. MOS means nothing when you are shot at, returning fire, getting rockets or mortars lobed at your position, or even just waiting and watching for it to happen. You became a “combat” soldier when your boots touched ground n that country. Anyone that served in the 4th knew that after spending time in the repo depot.


    • Thank you Jim. That makes me feel a little more at ease knowing that yes, we were combat vets. MOS means nothing when you’re on the receiving end of rocket fire, small arms fire, and infiltration by the enemy.


  4. I have talked to too many Veterans who were on ship and never saw land but consider themselves Vietnam Veterans and generally have war stories. The VFW’s seem to have a lot of REMFS that never saw combat but consider themselves hero’s. I consider this a form of stolen valor for us Grunts and others who had to slog through the Jungles on a daily basis and did see combat. Enough said.


  5. I drafted myself, trained myself, found a way to Nam and supplied my own rifle and equipment. Fed myself, fought the enemy myself, wounded, I treated myself, went on R & R myself, sent and received mail myself, all the while the men in the rear arose at 4:45 every morning, worked 12 hour days 7 days a week and had no connection with me whatsoever. Right! Get real, who are you fooling!?


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