AUSTIN - Austin Mayor Steve Adler made an announcement on Thursday that has led to a lot of debate on social media sites.
He said that Veterans Day is meant to honor "United States veterans, and Confederate veterans are not United States veterans."
Adler said that he and his team researched the status of Confederate soldiers before making his decision. He cited documents sent by the Congressional Research Service, a Library of Congress Agency that provided info and historical precedents to lawmakers, that said in part: "If your only service was in the Confederate Army/Navy, you are not considered a veteran under Federal law."
Yet for dozens online, that's not enough. The statement Mayor Adler cited does not seem to be repeated or officially confirmed anywhere else or by any other government entity.
Those who do believe that Confederate soldiers are official U.S. veterans often cite two acts of Congress that potentially deem the Civil War soldiers as full U.S. vets.
Public Law 810
Passed in 1829, Public Law 810 has a section that instructs the government how to handle monuments and headstones for unmarked graves. It distinguishes three groups of people:
"(1) Any individual buried in a national cemetery or in a post cemetery.
(2) Any individual eligible for burial in a national cemetery (but not buried there), except for those persons or classes of persons enumerated in section 2402(a)(4), (5), and (6) of this title.
(3) Soldiers of the Union and Confederate Armies of the Civil War."
Though it never explicitly states that Confederate soldiers are U.S. veterans, the use of both "Union and Confederate Armies" together has led many to believe that the two are being equated and afforded the same rights.
Public Law 85-425
Passed on May 23, 1958, Public Law 85-425 gave widows of deceased Confederate soldiers military pensions equal to those of U.S. veterans. The relevant section reads:
"To increase the monthly rates of pension payable to widows and former widows of deceased veterans of the Spanish-American War, Civil War, Indian War, and Mexican War, and provide pensions to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War."
Those arguing that Confederate soldiers are U.S. veterans use this to show that they were afforded the same rights as Union soldiers and U.S. veterans.
Those against the distinction point out that the article differentiates between widows of veterans from the "Civil War," and "the Confederate States of America during the Civil War."
The debate on this distinction is made more difficult by a seeming lack of official definition from any government entity or body.
Those who believe Confederate soldiers are U.S. veterans say these Congressional acts set up an obvious scenario. If Confederate soldiers' graves and widows are afforded the same treatment as U.S. veterans', then they are clearly the same.
On the other hand, those against the distinction point out that neither law ever calls Confederate soldiers U.S. veterans, and used language to potentially differentiate between the two instead.
As the debate over this distinction continues, so does Veterans Day. Saturday, Nov. 11, Mayor Steve Adler will spend the day volunteering with local veterans groups, and the Descendant's of Confederate Veterans will march in the parade that starts at 9:30 a.m.
It's important to note that more than 60 other groups not involved in either side of the debate will be marching in the parade as well.
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