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7News Salutes: What is a veteran?

U.S. Marine outside the Iwo Jima Memorial (7News){p}{/p}
U.S. Marine outside the Iwo Jima Memorial (7News)

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7News salutes our veterans for the entire month of November.

While there are rivalries between branches, like the U.S. Army versus the U.S. Navy, anyone who served in the military and was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, are veteran. That seems straightforward enough but many vets aren't acknowledged for their service or don't claim their status due to misgivings and perception from the public.

The Northern Virginia Veterans Association wants to change that so the men and women who served get all the benefits they deserve.

SEE ALSO | Northern Virginia veteran helps fellow vets connect to free services

“You know, if they didn’t deploy to a war or if they didn’t serve their full 20 years they might not identify as a veteran, but they absolutely did. They signed their name to give their life for their country and protect and serve and that’s exactly what they did. It doesn’t matter how long," explained Angela McConnell, president & CEO of the Northern Virginia Veterans Association.

“Sometimes it’s the questions people ask you if you try to say you’re a veteran but you didn’t serve in the way society says you should serve and then they make you feel bad because maybe you didn’t have a good experience and now they’re re-reminding you of it so, sometimes it’s better to just not say it," added Army veteran Brenda Lauer.

Lauer served less than a year and McConnel served more than two decades. Both are veterans.

Lauer told 7News Reporter Victoria Sanchez she planned to retire from the military after a long career but her dream was cut short. She was medically discharged in her 20s after physical abuse and sexual assault while in her Army unit.

The women said despite the nearly two million female veterans in the United States, some people are still surprised to learn they served in the military. Lauer and McConnel said not all vets wear insignia identifying their service but they are proud nonetheless.

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