Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11. If it falls on Saturday, the Friday before may be used for the holiday instead. If it occurs on a Sunday, then Monday may be used. It is a federal holiday, so most schools and businesses are closed. However, state and local governments, schools and businesses are not required to close. Check locally.
What Is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is held in honor of all military veterans, including both the fallen and the living, who have served in the United States Armed Forces, during wartime or peacetime. While Veterans Day celebrates retired soldiers and victims inclusive of all wars on the same day annually, the date of November 11 was originally designated in 1919 as it coincided with commemorating the end of World War I. Until 1954 when it was replaced, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day.
The observance should not be confused with Memorial Day, the holiday in May, which is held in remembrance of all those who have died in military service.
Veterans Day coincides with Remembrance Day and Armistice Day in the UK and Commonwealth nations. While commemorations and ceremonies vary, the premise of the date remains the same. For example, in the UK poppy wreaths are laid at commemorative sites in remembrance. As is customary in the US, there is also a moment of silence at 11am as a mark of respect.
History of the Day
In order to understand when and why we started to celebrate Veterans Day, it’s important to go back through history to the story and background behind Veterans Day.
1918 - The official end of the First World War comes into effect when the Treaty of Versailles is signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France. However, an armistice, a suspension of hostilities, between the Allies and Germany took place at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Therefore, November 11, 1918, is seen as the end of The Great War.
1919 - One year later, President Woodrow Wilson honors the end of World War I by proclaiming November 11 Armistice Day. He issues these words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
1926 - The United States Congress officially passes a resolution that the “recurring anniversary of [November 11, 1918] should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through goodwill and mutual understanding between nations”.
1938 - Congress passes legislation that November 11 be "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” Its primary purpose is to honor those who participated in World War I.
1954 - As millions of Americans have taken part in World War II, and the Korean War has also involved United States forces, veterans service organizations petition for the 1938 Act to be changed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower concedes and replaces the word “Armistice” with the word “Veterans”. November 11 thus becomes a day to honor American veterans of all wars. On October 8, President Eisenhower issues the first "Veterans Day Proclamation"
1968 - The Uniforms Holiday Bill moves Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October to ensure that federal employees get a three-day weekend break. Many states do not agree with the decision.
1971 - The first Veterans Day takes place in October. However, many states continue to observe the original date.
1975 - President Gerald R. Ford signs a law reestablishing November 11 as the annual observance of Veterans Day.
1978 - Veterans Day is once again celebrated on November 11.
2008 - A resolution designates the week of November 9 through November 15, 2008, as 'National Veterans Awareness Week' to direct educational efforts in elementary and secondary schools to highlight veterans’ contributions and sacrifices.
How to Celebrate Veterans Day Today
In 2021, there were around 19 million veterans recorded in the United States. Veterans Day is celebrated to thank them. It also encourages citizens to think about the many challenges that veterans face, including post-traumatic stress disorder, recovery from injuries, settling back into a civilian lifestyle, and other problems.
Some Veterans Day schemes encourage companies to think about offering veterans employment, or products and services for free. A great way of giving back is to volunteer at a soup kitchen offering free meals to veterans. Some schools host educational programs for their students and may participate in community programs.
Official events are held in support of veterans in local communities. For example, parades, Church services, military band concerts, and sponsored runs. The American flag is hung at half-mast. There are also gun salutes. A period of silence is observed at 11 a.m. for 2 minutes.
At Arlington National Cemetery, the Veterans Day National Ceremony is held. It begins with a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a monument for those whose remains have not been identified. You could travel to a commemorative site honoring US veterans to participate, or simply show your gratitude and appreciation from home by flying your own flag. You can celebrate virtually, at home or at work, by showing your support online via social media.
However you choose to celebrate Veterans Day, showing your support and appreciation to Veterans for their service to the United States of America will go a long way.
Facts About Veterans Day:
Until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day. While Armistice Day was principally celebrated to honor the heroes from World War I, the change of name brought about a more inclusive day to celebrate since Veterans Day honors all of those involved and affected by war.
It was former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a US Army general, who instigated that Veterans Day replace Armistice Day.
World War II (WWII) saw the highest number of US Military personnel fight for their country with over 16 million deployed. That’s over 3 times the amount of WWI.
Veterans Day is often misspelt as Veteran’s Day. Since the holiday doesn’t belong to just one Veteran as it is inclusive and celebrates all Veterans, it’s Veterans Day.
Did you know, Veterans Day is one of the three military holidays, alongside Memorial Day and Independence Day.
Memorial Day is not another name for Veterans Day, it’s a different day entirely. Memorial Day honors those specifically who have died in the line of duty.
Veterans Day honors all departments of the US Armed Forces, which is comprised of the US Army, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, US Navy, US Coast Guard, and most recently, US Space Force.