Veterans Day in Belgium Date in the current year: April 7, 2024

Veterans Day in Belgium Many countries have a remembrance day to honor their veterans. For example, Belgian Veterans Day (Journée des Vétérans / Veteranendag) is observed on April 7 to honor the memory of Belgian soldiers who have died participating in UN peacekeeping missions since 1945.

The Belgian Armed Forces were established shortly after Belgium’s independence in 1830. Since their inception, they have participated in both World Wars, the Korean War, the occupation of West Germany after World War II, peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda and Somalia, and EU and NATO military missions.

Belgium has had a remembrance day set aside to honor its military veterans since 1998. The date of Veterans Day, April 7, was chosen to commemorate ten Belgian soldiers from the 2nd Commando Battalion who were sent by the United Nations Assistant Mission of Rwanda to escort Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana at the beginning of the Rwandan genocide.

On the morning of April 7, 1994, the peacekeepers were arrested by the Rwandan presidential guard who were supposed to protect the prime minister and her family. The guard shot Uwilingiyimana and her husband point-blank; the Belgian peacekeepers were transported to a military camp, where they were subsequently murdered by Rwandan soldiers. Major Bernard Ntuyahaga was found guilty in the murder of the peacekeepers and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment in 2007.

The death of Belgian peacekeepers in Rwanda was widely publicized, but it was not the first and far from the only time Belgian soldiers lost their lives while serving abroad. According to the official count, 101 Belgian soldiers were killed and 5 were reported missing during the Korean War, 107 died in Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo between 1960 and 1962, 13 Belgians lost their lives in the former Yugoslavia between 1992 and 2004, 6 Belgian soldiers died in Somalia in 1993, and 5 lost their lives in Lebanon between 2007 and 2009. In total, more than 250 Belgian soldiers have died fighting in Korea, the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Mali since World War II

Veterans Day is a remembrance day for those who lost their lives while serving in the Belgian Armed Forces and participating in peacekeeping operations abroad, as well as a day to honor the living veterans. Every April 7, a memorial ceremony is held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the Congress Column in Brussels. It includes the laying of wreaths and the rekindling of the eternal flame. The ceremony is typically attended by the minister of defense and a representative of the king.

Veterans Day is not the only day when Belgians honor their fallen soldiers and living military veterans. Like many other European countries, Belgium observes Armistice Day that commemorates the end of World War I and serves a remembrance day for all soldiers who died in the line of duty. Unlike Veterans Day, Armistice Day is a public holiday in Belgium.

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Veterans Day in Belgium, observances in Belgium, remembrance day, memorial day, Belgian peacekeepers