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The Nation’s First Veterans and How Military Service Has Changed

In 1841, for the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau published information about veterans in a special bound volume on the men who served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and other American conflicts.
Although it had been nearly 60 years since the American Revolution had ended, the compendium listed the surviving pensioners, including widows, of that war.
In the 18 decades that followed, the data that the Census Bureau collected about veterans continually shifted and expanded, providing a historical record of just how much the definition of military service has been redefined over centuries.
Who was counted as a veteran depended on when and where a man served in the U.S. armed forces. And, yes, for most of the nation’s history, only men were considered veterans.
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