In the United States, Veterans Day is a day dedicated to honoring and thanking all those who have served in the country’s armed forces.
It is a time to pay tribute to the men and women who have selflessly defended the nation and its values.
Veterans Day has a rich history, and its origins can be traced back to the end of World War I.
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the complete history of Veterans Day, from its early beginnings to the way it is celebrated today.
The End of World War I
The origins of Veterans Day can be traced back to the end of World War I, which was one of the most significant global conflicts in history.
The war ended on November 11, 1918, when an armistice, or a temporary cessation of hostilities, was signed between the Allied nations and Germany.
This date marked the end of the four-year-long conflict that had resulted in countless casualties and suffering.
The First Armistice Day
The first Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919, one year after the end of World War I.
It was a day to honor and remember the soldiers who had fought in the war and to celebrate the coming of peace.
Many nations around the world observed this day as a time for reflection and gratitude.
The Red Poppy Tradition
In the United Kingdom, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries, the red poppy flower became a symbol of remembrance for those who had died in the war.
This tradition was inspired by the famous war poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
The red poppy’s symbolism as a reminder of the sacrifices made by soldiers during the war quickly spread to the United States.
The United States Adopts Armistice Day
The U.S. Celebrates Armistice Day
In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919, as the first Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I.
The day was intended to honor the Veterans and remember the fallen soldiers of the Great War.
Legislation for Armistice Day
In 1938, Armistice Day was officially recognized as a legal holiday, primarily dedicated to world peace and the cessation of hostilities.
The day’s purpose was to celebrate and offer thanksgiving for the end of the devastating conflict.
World War II and the Expansion of Armistice Day
World War II brought about another global conflict, resulting in millions of American men and women serving in the armed forces.
This led to the recognition that Armistice Day, originally intended to honor World War I Veterans, should include those who served in subsequent wars.
The Birth of Veterans Day
A New Name, A New Purpose
After World War II, there was a growing consensus that Armistice Day should honor all Veterans of the United States, not just those who had served in World War I.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law officially changing the holiday’s name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
This alteration reflected the nation’s commitment to recognizing and honoring Veterans from all eras.
The Uniform Holiday Bill
In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed into law, aimed at providing more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers.
The bill officially moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October, beginning in 1971.
However, this change was met with opposition and confusion as it separated the holiday from its historical date of November 11.
Return to November 11
A Return to Tradition
Due to the controversy surrounding the date change and the desire to preserve the historical significance of November 11, President Gerald Ford signed a new law in 1975 that returned Veterans Day to its original date. Since then, it has been celebrated on November 11 each year.
Observing Veterans Day
Ceremonies and Parades
Veterans Day is observed in numerous ways across the United States. Many communities hold ceremonies and parades to honor Veterans.
These events often feature Veterans’ organizations, patriotic displays, and public speeches recognizing the sacrifices and contributions of those who have served in the military.
The National Veterans Day Ceremony
A prominent observance of Veterans Day takes place at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The National Veterans Day Ceremony, held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, pays tribute to all Veterans, especially those who have given their lives for their country. The President of the United States typically lays a wreath at the tomb during this event.
Military Flyovers and Other Displays
In some cities, military flyovers and other displays of patriotism are organized to mark Veterans Day.
These acts serve as a reminder of the strength and unity of the nation’s armed forces.
Honoring Veterans in Education
In many schools and educational institutions, Veterans Day provides an opportunity to educate students about the importance of the holiday and the sacrifices made by Veterans. Students may participate in activities, projects, and ceremonies to express their appreciation.
Veterans Day Sales and Discounts
Many businesses and retailers offer special sales, discounts, and promotions to Veterans and active-duty military personnel on Veterans Day to show their appreciation. This gesture is a small token of gratitude for the dedication and sacrifice of those who have served.
If you would like to read our earlier blog post on Veterans Day free meals & discounts, click here.
Veterans Day Around the World
Remembrance Day in Canada
In Canada, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day, like Armistice Day in its early origins. Canadians honor their Veterans and remember the sacrifices made in both World War I and World War II. The red poppy is also a symbol of remembrance in Canada, much like the tradition in the United Kingdom.
Armistice Day in Other Nations
Various countries around the world have their own variations of Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, each with its own unique traditions and customs.
These observances serve as a reminder of the global impact of the world wars and the need to honor and remember those who served.
Veterans Day Today
A Day of Gratitude
Today, Veterans Day remains a time for Americans to express their gratitude to all Veterans for their service and sacrifice.
It is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the nation’s armed forces and the role they play in defending the country’s freedoms and values.
Celebrating the Living and Remembering the Fallen
Veterans Day is not only about honoring those who have passed away in service to their country but also recognizing the living Veterans who have returned home. It is a day to celebrate their contributions and resilience.
Ways to Celebrate Veterans Day
• Attend a Veterans Day Parade: Many cities and towns host Veterans Day parades featuring Veterans, military units, and patriotic displays. Attending these parades is a terrific way to show your support and gratitude.
• Thank a Veteran: Take the time to personally thank a Veteran for their service. A simple “thank you for your service” can mean a lot to those who have served in the military.
• Volunteer or Donate: Consider volunteering your time or donating to organizations that support Veterans. Many charities and nonprofits provide valuable services and assistance to Veterans in need.
• Visit a Veterans Hospital: Spending time with Veterans at a local Veterans’ hospital or nursing home is a meaningful way to show appreciation and offer companionship to those who may be far from their families.
• Educational Activities: Use Veterans Day as an opportunity to educate yourself and others about the history and significance of the holiday. You can read books, watch documentaries, or visit a museum related to military history.
Donating to Help Veterans
To commemorate and pay tribute to Veterans Day, here is a list of some of the highest rated Veterans & Military organizations:
• Bob Woodruff Foundation: This foundation is dedicated to discovering, funding, and shaping innovative programs that support the well-being of our impacted Veterans, service members, and their families.
• Folds of Honor Foundation: Folds of Honor Foundation’s mission is to offer financial assistance for the education of spouses and dependent children of service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, being either killed or permanently disabled while bravely serving and defending our nation.
• Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund: This organization provides critical support to military personnel grappling with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Their efforts focus on helping these heroes confront the challenges within by constructing advanced treatment centers that offer the best possible care. This support allows military personnel to continue serving on active duty and lead productive lives.
• Wounded Warrior Project: The Wounded Warrior Project is a renowned Veterans’ organization committed to empowering and supporting Veterans who have sustained physical or mental injuries while serving in the military. Through a range of programs and services, they provide wounded Veterans with resources and opportunities for rehabilitation, recovery, and reintegration into civilian life.
• Semper Fi Fund: The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to combat-wounded, critically ill, and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their programs address a wide range of needs, from adaptive housing and specialized equipment to education and career transition assistance, ensuring that Veterans and their families receive the comprehensive support they require. By supporting the Semper Fi Fund, donors play a vital role in assisting Veterans on their road to recovery and independence.