What is a Veteran? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Veterans are some of the bravest people in the United States. Come and learn about what a veteran is, how to honor them, some of the awards given to veterans, as well as some of the most famous veterans of all time.

What is a Veteran?

Two naval veterans

Serving in the military - which means that someone serves in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard - is one of the most honorable acts that an American can do. The military works hard to protect the freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of the United States, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to life, liberty and happiness. Being in the military isn't easy, as many of the men and women serving end up fighting in wars and being in very dangerous situations. Sadly, many people in the military end up suffering major injuries from combat or even pass away. Thankfully, many of the military men and women do end up coming home and are able to enjoy their lives as American citizens.

Anyone who has served in a war is considered to be a veteran. It is possible that you might know a veteran or have at least one living in your own neighborhood. Perhaps there is someone who served in the Navy during World War II or served in the Army during the Vietnam War. As of 2014, there were more than 20 million veterans living in the United States.

Famous Veterans

There are many veterans who did some extraordinarily honorable things during their time of service. Take Deborah Samson, for example. She was a Revolutionary War veteran. During this time, women were not allowed to serve in the military. However, Deborah felt so passionate about America gaining independence from England that she wanted to fight in the American Army. Therefore, she disguised herself as a man and served for three years.

Louis Zamperini is another veteran who showed great strength during his time in the Army, during World War II. Not only did he survive almost 50 days lost at sea, he also survived two years of torture during his time as a captured prisoner of war in Japan.

Did you know that Elvis Presley was a veteran? What about John F. Kennedy? Many veterans go on to pursue other careers outside of the military, such as politics and entertainment.

Awards for Veterans

Army veterans presented with a Purple Heart

Sometimes, veterans are awarded medals to recognize their service. One of the most special awards is the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is given to veterans who were wounded or killed by the enemy during a war. Another special award is the Medal of Honor. This is given to veterans who go above and beyond the call of duty. It is the highest military honor that a veteran can receive.

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