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Veterans Day Facts

Falling on November 11 of each year, the Veterans Day allows Americans all over the world to celebrate the sacrifice and bravery of U.S. veterans over the years.

Although this is an important holiday, many Americans do not know why we commemorate veterans on November 11. Many even confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, as accounted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It is therefore important that we not only know the history behind Veterans Day but also important facts so that we can properly honor these former servicepersons who served to preserve the liberty we enjoy today.

History of Veterans Day

The precursor of Veterans Day is Armistice Day that also happened to fall on November 11. Armistice Day was a holiday put in place to honor the end of the First World War, which fell on November 11, 1918. On November 11, 1938, a U.S. legislation was passed make November 11 Armistice Day.  As such, this holiday was to celebrate World War I veterans.

After 1938, America went witnessed both the Second World War and the Korean War. As such, on June 1, 1954, the U.S. Congress approved a legislation, signed by President Eisenhower, which amended the Act of 1938, which changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Many veteran service organizations advocated for the change of name so as to include all veterans in the commemoration.

Under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act starting in 1971, the observation of Veterans Day was moved from November 11 to the fourth Monday of October (October 25, 1971; October 23, 1972; October 22, 1973; October 28, 1974; October 27, 1975; October 25, 1976, and October 24, 1977). Regardless of this move, many states still observed Veterans Day on November 11. The Federal government annulled the format introduced by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act on September 20, 1975, when President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that reverted the observance of Veterans Day back to November 11 starting 1978. The observation of Veterans Day has since remained there until today.

Celebrating the Veterans Day Holiday

When the holiday falls on a Saturday, the federal government observes it on Friday. In the same vein, if it falls on a Sunday, the federal government observes the holiday on a Saturday. For many private companies when the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, they offer it as a floating holiday for works, this enables the employees to choose any other day as a holiday.

While the U.S. Office of Personnel Management handles the federal government closings, the state and local government determine local government closings.

Private businesses can decide to close or stay open regardless of decisions taken by the local, state or federal government. In the same vein, individual states or school districts decide if schools close on Veterans Day or not. According to a poll by the Society of Human Resource Management, one of the largest professional human resources membership associations, 21 percent of employers planned on closing for the 2011 Veterans Day.

The Difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Many people don't know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While both honor service members, memorial honors deceased service members who passed away while in service to their country or due to injuries during their service. Veterans Day, on the other hand, is to honor veterans both living and deceased. Most of the United States has come to view Veterans Day has come as a day to honor living veterans who served both in peacetime and in wartime.

Observance of Veterans Day in Other Countries

The United States is not the only nation that chooses to honor veterans on November 11 each year. In fact, different countries around the world commemorate veterans on and around November 11. For instance, Australia and Canada observe Remembrance Day on November 11. For Australia, Remembrance Day is more similar to Memorial Day - a day to honor Australia’s wartime dead veterans. In Canada, Remembrance Day is very much similar to Veterans Day in the United States, as it honors all veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces. Many Canadians also wear Red poppies to commemorate their war dead on Remembrance Day. Great Britain observes Remembrance Day on the Sunday nearest to November 11.

Veteran Day Facts

  • The First World War ended on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month (November).
  • In many countries in the world, November 11, which is Veterans Day in America, is Remembrance Day or Armistice Day.
  • While Memorial Day commemorates those who died while serving in the army, Veterans Day honors all veterans dead or alive.
  • Raymond weeks was a World War II veteran from Alabama who proposed that all veterans were honored on November 11 and not just World War I veterans. President Ronald Reagan later gave him a presidential citizenship medal in 1982.
  • Between 1971 and 1977, Federal observance of Veterans Day fell on the fourth Monday in October instead of November 11.
  • The National Veterans Award was created in 1954 in Alabama. This award is bestowed upon an exceptional veteran who has made great contributions to advance the patriotic interest of veterans and veteran organizations in the U.S.
  • According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 20.4 million U.S. veterans in the U.S. as of 2016.
  • On average, veterans, including men and women, earn more than nonveterans do.
  • The correct spelling is Veterans Day, not Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day.
  • On Veterans Day, Americans throughout the nation hold parades to celebrate veterans.
  • On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American serviceman was buried at Arlington Cemetery. His tomb, which is a three-level marble tomb, is known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The site now contains remains of dead unknown servicepersons from the World War II, Korean and the Vietnam War. On Veterans Day, a high-ranking member of the government lays a wreath on the tomb.

Veterans Day Timeline

  • 1918 - The Great War, later to be known as the First World War, ends after the implementation of an armistice. The Allies and Germany signed this armistice, called the Treaty of Versailles, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The Allies and Germany signed the final peace treaty in 1919.
  • 1919 - On November 11, the U.S. observed the first Armistice Day. The original idea was to suspend businesses and work for two minutes starting at 11 in the morning. Public meetings and parades were also supposed to take place.
  • 1920 - The United Kingdom and France also hold ceremonies to honor the unknown dead from the First World War. President Wilsons names the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day - Armistice Day Sunday.
  • 1921 - An unidentified American serviceman is buried at Arlington Cemetery after approval of a legislation by the U.S. Congress. His tomb, which is a three-level marble tomb, is as such known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • 1926 - The president on a resolution form Congress issues an annual proclamation that called for the observance of Armistice Day. Many states declared November 11 as a public holiday throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
  • 1938 - A legislation passed on May 13, allows Armistice Day to become a legal Federal holiday. Since the federal government cannot designate national holidays, this applied to federal employees and organizations. However many states also designated November 11 as a legal holiday, Armistice Day.
  • 1941 to 1945 & 1950 to 1953- The Second World War and the Korean War means that the U.S. honors millions more veterans on Armistice Day.
  • 1954 - U.S. Congress approved a legislation, signed by President Eisenhower, that amended the Act of 1938, which changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1.
  • 1968 - The Monday holiday law passed by Congress means that Veterans Day is moved from November 11 to the fourth Monday in October. This change remains so on a federal level from 1971 to 1978.
  • 1971 to 1975 - Apart from South Dakota and Mississippi, all states observed Veterans Day on the fourth Monday of October.  In 1972, Wisconsin and Louisiana reverted to November 11. In 1974, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, and Georgia reverted to November 11. In 1975, California, Illinois, Idaho, Florida, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, Utah, and Wyoming reverted to November 11. 46 states reverted to November 11 or maintained November 11 as Veterans Day.
  • 1975 - Because many states were celebrating Veterans Day on November 11, a legislation reverted federal observance to that day as well. President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that reverted the observance of Veterans Day back to November 11 starting 1978.
  • 1978 - The nation observes Veterans Day on November 11.

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