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Germany votes to establish an annual ‘veterans day’ to recognize military service

  • The German parliament has voted to establish an annual national ‘veterans day’ to honor military service.
  • The proposal, backed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition and the main opposition, received broad support in the Bundestag.
  • The designated holiday is June 15, officials said.

Germany’s parliament voted Thursday to introduce an annual national “veterans day” to honor people who served in the military, which has often struggled to gain recognition in the country.

The proposal was drawn up by the parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party governing coalition, along with the opposition’s main conservative bloc, and was approved by almost all parties in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

It says that every June 15 a ‘veterans day’ should be celebrated ‘publicly and visibly’. There are also calls for improved aftercare for people injured while serving in the German army, the Bundeswehr.

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The motion “is a strong, important and, yes, overdue signal of recognition and appreciation,” Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told lawmakers.

German soldier

A soldier is seen in front of the ‘Military Memorial of the German Bundeswehr’ in Berlin, Germany, on September 8, 2009. The German parliament voted on Thursday to introduce an annual national ‘veterans day’ to honor the service of people serving in the military that has often struggled to gain recognition in the country. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)

Post-World War II Germany was generally uncomfortable with militarism and war, and the country slowly emerged from its post-war military shell after reunification in 1990. Then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl broke a taboo on German troops serving abroad by sending military medics to support the troops. UN mission in Cambodia in 1992.

More robust military deployments abroad, for example in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Mali, later became a mainstay of the Bundeswehr’s activities.

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In 2008, Germany introduced a new military award for bravery, giving troops the opportunity to earn such an honor for the first time since World War II. A memorial was built at the Ministry of Defense in Berlin in 2009 for soldiers who died while serving in the Bundeswehr.

But even now, “the word ‘veteran’ is little used in our society, and that must end,” said Johannes Arlt, a lawmaker with Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats who served as an air force officer. “We need more visibility and we need more recognition for our soldiers and veterans, and that’s why we need a Veterans Day in Germany.”

The Bundeswehr was founded in 1955 and served first as the army of West Germany and since 1990 as that of the reunified Germany. More than ten million people have served in it over the past decades.

Germany launched an initiative to modernize the Bundeswehr and increase its military spending shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.