We all enjoy a day off from work or school because of a federal holiday. And Veterans Day is one of those great days. But, not all Americans may know the history behind that date and it’s important to understand the holiday. As well as know how to honor those who have served.
November 11, 1918 was the official end of World War I. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Veterans Day, then known as Armistice Day. Then, in May 1938, legislation was passed declaring that day as a legal holiday and “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.” This new holiday was put in place to honor World War I veterans.
In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, the 83 U.S. Congress amended the act, and word “Armistice” was replaced with Veterans. On June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor all American veterans.
The Uniform Holiday Bill was signed on June 28, 1968. The purpose was to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating 4 holidays on a Monday. One of those holidays was Veterans Day which was moved to the 4th Monday in October. Although intentions were thoughtful, many states didn’t agree with the decision and continued celebrating these holidays on their original days. Starting in 1971, Veterans Day was celebrated on October 25th.
Finally, on September 20, 1975, it was determined that the “commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance” to many. Therefore, President Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance to its rightful day on November 11th, beginning in 1978 – and has remained until today. This decision was supported by state legislation, veterans service organizations and the American people.
Returning the holiday back to November 11th, not only “preserves the historical significance of the date, but also helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
Celebrating Veterans Day
Veterans Day is a day for us all to honor all our military, past and present. If you’re trying to think of a way to do so this Veterans Day, there are plenty of things you could do. Check out of a few ideas:
1. Show up.
Go to a Veterans day event in your area. Not just a small get together with friends and family, but an actual organized event.
There are a ton of different organizations that all offer either support, services or appreciation for our veterans. Check out a list here.
3. Fly a flag correctly.
Veterans Day is a perfect day to fly an American Flag. Just be sure you’re do so properly! Check out how to do that here.
4. Ask someone about their service.
We all know somebody who served at some point in their life and Veterans Day is a great opportunity for you to ask about it. Here’s some ideas on a few questions to ask: “What did you do in the military? How long did you serve? What was your favorite moment in all your time in the service? Did anyone else in your family serve? Why did you choose to go into the service branch you did?” Be sure not to ask if they’ve killed anyone, that may not be something they want to discuss. Sometimes you won’t even have to say anything, just listen.
If you know a veteran, just simply writing them a letter or post card is huge. If yo don’t know a veteran, write the local military installation and send one there. It will be very appreciated, even if sent anonymously.
6. Don’t confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day & know the difference.
Although similar in nature, these two holidays are different. Confusing or combining the two could diminish the importance of both. Check out the difference between the two below.
7. Visit a VA hospital.
Volunteer and spend some time with veterans at your local VA hospital. Many of the facilities will have an event or lunch that you can assist with.
8. Take a veteran out.
You could take a veteran & their family to a national park since admission is free for all visitors on Veterans Day. Just being outside can boost their emotional well being and improve their physical and mental health.
Veterans Day vs. Memorial Day
Although both holidays are similar, they are separated for a reason. Memorial Day is meant for us to remember those who died in service of their country or those who incurred an injury during battle. And although deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day, that day is specifically set aside to honor and thank those who are still living. All the veterans who served honorably during both wartime and peacetime.