Veterans Day is celebrated every year on November 11th. When the day falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is designated a federal holiday in order to provide additional time for the observance. On Veterans Day, celebrations and events such as parades and memorial ceremonies are organized around the country to honor American Veterans of all wars. The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is that we celebrate all Veterans, fallen or living, on Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors soldiers who have died.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the Armistice ending World War 1 was signed. World War I, also called the Great War, was a devastating international conflict that left behind carnage, destruction, and death unlike any other. Many warfare tactics and weapons were used for the first time during WWI, contributing greatly to the massive destruction the war left behind. Some of these firsts included the enlistment of women, chemical warfare, flamethrowers, the use of tanks and aircraft carriers, aerial warfare, and wireless communication.
The following year, 1919, President Wilson called for November 11th to be a commemoration of the event. Wilson stated, “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…”
Armistice Day officially became a legal holiday in 1938, and was changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans of all wars in 1954, after the tremendous efforts of American Service men and women in World War II and the Korean War.
History of Veterans Day
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day in 1919. The name was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954. In 1971 – 1974, Veterans Day was observed on the fourth Monday in October to align with the Uniform Holiday Bill passed by congress in 1968. The bill intended to ensure that federal holidays created three-day weekends. However, because of the historical significance and to retain a more authentic observation of the holiday, President Gerald Ford changed the date back to November 11th in 1975.
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Veterans Day Facts
- Veterans Day honors all war veterans, living and dead, that have honorably served in the United States Military during wartime or peacetime.
- President Wilson originally deemed the day Armistice day, in honor of the agreement to stop fighting, officially ending World War I.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor the heroic American veterans of all wars.
- Great Britain, France, Canada, and Australia also have holidays to honor WWI and WWII Veterans in November. Canada’s is Remembrance Day and Britain celebrates Remembrance Sunday every second Sunday in November. Europe, Great Britain, and the Commonwealth Countries honor the date with two minutes of silence every November 11th at 11 a.m.
How to Thank A Veteran
There are many ways to thank and honor a Veteran. Here are a few suggestions to help you show your support.
- Hang a flag at your home.
- Attend a Veterans Day event.
- Listen to a Veterans stories about time served.
- Volunteer for a Veterans Service Organization in your area.
- Provide a meal, a cup of coffee, clothing, or hygiene products for a homeless Veteran.
- Visit a homebound Veteran and spend time with them, share a meal, and thank them for their service.
- Call friends and family members who are Veterans or currently serving and say thank you.
- Write thank you letters or send care packages to current military members or Veterans.
- Wear a red poppy, the official symbol of remembrance, and tell people what it means.
- Share the poem, In Flanders Fields with someone.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, 1872 – 1918
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Veterans Service Organizations
- African American Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Association
- Air Force Sergeants Association
- American Ex-Prisoners of War
- American GI Forum of the United States
- American Gold Star Mothers
- American War Mothers
- The American Legion
- American Red Cross
- Armed Forces Service Corporation
- Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Blue Star Mothers of America
- Catholic War Veterans
- Congressional Medal of Honor Society of the USA
- Disabled American Veterans
- Fleet Reserve Association
- Gold Star Wives of America
- Help Heal Veterans
- Homeless & Disabled Veterans
- Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans of America
- Italian American War Veterans of the United States
- Japanese American Veterans Association
- Jewish War Veterans of the USA
- Korean War Veterans Association
- Legion of Valor of the USA
- Marine Corps League
- Military Chaplains Association of the USA
- Military Officers Association of America
- Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA
- Military Order of the World Wars
- National American Indian Veterans
- National Association for Black Veterans
- National Association of County Veterans Service Officers
- National League of Families
- National Military Family Association
- National Veterans Foundation
- National Veterans Legal Services Program
- National Veterans Organization of America
- Navy Club of the USA
- Navy Mutual Aid Association
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Polish Legion of American Veterans
- Swords to Plowshares: Veterans Rights Organization
- TREA: The Enlisted Association
- United States Submarine Veterans
- Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States
- Veterans of the Vietnam War & The Veterans Coalition
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- Vietnam Era Veterans Association
- Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association – Women United
- Wounded Warrior Project
Heidi Deal is the author of Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement and other educational children’s books. She specializes in elementary through high school level resources about history and improving human rights.