Today, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, and like countless others in America, you may be heading out to attend a parade, or volunteer for your community center’s annual Veterans Day lunch. As discussed in an article recently published by Military.com, there are many ways to show appreciation for the veterans in your life–but how much do you really know about this federal holiday? If you need to do a little brushing up, the following facts will tell you everything you need to know about Veterans Day and why we celebrate our nation’s veterans each year on Nov. 11.
Veterans Day, not to be confused with Memorial Day, is a federal holiday celebrated each year on Nov. 11 that honors all men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday in May, honors all men and women who have died in service of our country.
In the early twentieth century, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day and was established as a day to honor veterans of World War I. President Wilson declared Nov. 11, 1919 to be the first Armistice Day, which marked the one year anniversary of when fighting ceased between the Allied nations and Germany and armistice took effect–the unofficial ending of World War I.
On May 13, 1938, Congress passed an act officially recognizing Armistice Day as a federal holiday. After World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the act to recognize all who wore our nation’s uniform by replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans.” President Eisenhower signed the amended legislation into law on June 1, 1954.
For a brief period in time (1971-1977), Veterans Day was observed on the fourth Monday in October. The passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968 moved four federal holidays to Mondays as a way to encourage travel and commercial activity over an extended weekend. However, the moving of Veterans Day was met with criticism from many veterans organizations and American citizens, who felt Nov. 11 had historical significance. In 1975, President Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which moved Veterans Day back to Nov. 11, effective in 1978.
Today, Veterans Day is celebrated on Nov. 11, regardless of which day of the week it falls. Early observances of the holiday included a brief pausing of business at the eleventh hour on Veterans Day, as well as public meetings and parades. In modern times, federal and state offices close and military units and citizens across the country participate in ceremonies, parades, activities and events honoring the men and women who served our country.
On Nov. 11, 1921, the first unknown soldier was reburied in Arlington National Cemetery. Each year, the National Veterans Day Ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
With a little more background knowledge, hopefully you will appreciate this Veterans Day even more. For all the men and women who have served our country, we thank you for your service.