Overseas operations veterans’ associations


Like those who fought in earlier conflicts, the veterans of overseas operations have campaigned for rights commensurate with their commitment. Increasingly numerous in traditional veterans’ associations, they have also organised in specific organisations. 

Ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War (Operation Daguet), 27 February 2021. © A.Thomas-Trophime/Ministère des Armées


The world of overseas operations veterans’ organisations started out as a series of associations of friends of former professional soldiers, on the margins of a “veterans’ sector” comprised of former conscripts who fought in the major conflicts of the 20th century. The story of how overseas operations veterans became fully integrated in mainstream veterans’ organisations, to the point where today they are their designated heirs, is the story of the redefining of the term “veteran” to take into account new forms of military engagement. The “traditional” veterans’ associations amounted to mass movements that represented the interests of former mobilised soldiers, conscripts or volunteers. “Overseas missions”, carried out under international agreements or as part of UN peacekeeping or intervention operations, did not make their participants “veterans” in the legal sense of the term.  Their inclusion would not occur until the law of 4 January 1993, which provided for the award of the carte du combattant (veteran’s card), under the same terms as for earlier generations of veterans, to participants in overseas operations. This opening up of veteran status was partly a result of the work of the veterans’ administration and the traditional veterans’ organisations, but also that of the associations of friends of overseas operations veterans. The incorporation of the “newcomers” was by no means a given, however, and the “friends of overseas operations” movement still exists today, as a unified movement with the necessary resources to ensure that the specificities of serving the nation on overseas operations are taken into account more effectively.

Currently, two organisations specific to overseas operations are represented within the main consultation bodies for war veterans:

- The National Federation of Veterans of Overseas Missions – Overseas Operations (FNAME-OPEX) was founded in 1985 to support veterans of the peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, the “Blue Helmets”. It was behind the creation of the Soldiers of Peace International Association (AISP/SPIA), which holds UN General Assembly observer status and has multiple initiatives in place to promote engagement with young people and their comrades deployed on overseas operations.

- The National Association of Participants in Overseas Operations (ANOPEX), set up more recently (2011), runs a range of project relating to veterans’ remembrance, in particular publications, symposia and ceremonies, works to promote links between the armed forces and the nation, and acts as an essential intermediary between overseas operations veterans and active service personnel.

These two organisations play an active role in official ceremonies and veterans’ consultation bodies (ONAC-VG, “G12”), as well as providing support for wounded servicemen and women.

In addition to these two specific national organisations, the large, traditional organisations for veterans and injured service personnel have been joined by overseas operations veterans, who account for a significant proportion of their membership, as the numbers of veterans of earlier conflicts fall and the terms for award of the veterans’ card become increasingly broad. The desire of these mainstream organisations to open up their ranks to the servicemen and women deployed on overseas operations and other forms of engagement aimed at safeguarding the nation’s overseas and domestic security is a major sign of the development of the voluntary sector for veterans.

Laurent Duval - Head of the veterans section, Directorate for Heritage, Remembrance and Archives (DPMA)

Articles of the review