German parliament votes to establish 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, supported by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition and the main opposition, received widespread approval in the Bundestag.
  • The designated day for celebration is June 15, officials said.

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

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

It says a “veterans’ day” should be celebrated “publicly and visibly” every June 15. It also calls for improved follow-up care for people wounded while serving in the German military, the Bundeswehr.

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The motion “is a strong, important and, yes, an 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 Sept. 8, 2009. The German parliament voted on Thursday for the introduction of an annual national “veterans’ day” to honor the service of people who have served in the military, which often has struggled to gain recognition in the country. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Post-World War II Germany has generally been uncomfortable with militarism and war, and the country emerged slowly from its postwar military shell after reunification in 1990. Then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl broke a taboo against German troops serving abroad by sending military medics to support the U.N. 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 decoration for bravery, giving troops the possibility of earning such an honor for the first time since World War II. A memorial to soldiers killed while serving in the Bundeswehr was built at the Defense Ministry in Berlin and inaugurated in 2009.

But even now, “the word ‘veteran’ is little used in our society, and this must come to an end,” said Johannes Arlt, a lawmaker with Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats who has 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, serving first as West Germany’s military and, since 1990, as that of the reunited Germany. More than 10 million people have served in it over the decades.

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