Everyone knows that Veterans Day falls in November every year. But when did Veterans Day begin? Why do we celebrate it in November? Veterans Day is held on the same date every year, November 11, regardless of the day of the week. It has been a national holiday since President Dwight Eisenhower declared it as such in 1954. The following questions and answers will answer questions about the history of the holiday, what it means and how to honor veterans in a respectful way.
What is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is a national, federal holiday that is used to honor all veterans of the United States military who served their country during war time or during peace. Rich with history, Veterans Day has undergone many changes since its inception, including the change from being called Armistice Day to the current name of Veterans Day.
Though Veterans Day is a federal holiday, the states actually determine how and when the holiday is observed. All 50 states within the United States of America follow the the federal holiday observance. Banks, U.S. Post Office, some schools, and local government buildings are typically closed to observe the holiday.
When Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?
Celebrated on November 11 of each year, Veterans Day is a federal holiday which celebrates and honors veterans of the United States Military.
Why do we celebrate Veterans Day?
Before WW2, Veterans Day was known as Armistice day, and was celebrated to honor those that had given their lives for their country during WW1. After the second World War, however, the 83rd Congress amended the initial Act that was signed in 1938. This new amendment changed the name of the day from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. The change meant that the day was set aside to honor all veterans of foreign conflict rather than only those who had died.
Who started Veterans Day?
Woodrow Wilson originally declared Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, one year after fighting in World War I ceased. The day was meant to be set aside in observance of those who had given their lives during what came to be known as World War I. His proclamation was amended in 1938 to include all veterans, both dead and alive.
In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower issued a Veterans Day Proclamation. In his statement, he expressed his wish that veterans organizations, the government and all citizens of the United States would join together to celebrate and honor all veterans. He spoke, “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance.”
After Eisenhower’s proclamation, Veterans Day became a nationally celebrated and widely observed holiday in the United States.
What is the flower of Veterans Day?
The unofficial but well-known flower of Veterans Day is the poppy. This first became the symbol to remember fallen soldiers after John McCrae wrote a poem called In Flanders Fields on May 3, 1915. McCrae was a Canadian doctor and Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian army. He wrote about how millions of poppy flowers grew in the Flanders field, where fallen troops had been buried.
The poem read, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky, The lakes, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below…Take up our quarrel with the doe: To you from falling 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.”
After this poem was published, veterans groups began to adopt it as a sign of remembrance and respect for those who died, and even those who served in World War I. Today, the flower has come to be a symbol of reverence for any person who served in the forces during any war. The poppy is often worn and distributed on Veterans Day.
When was Veterans Day established?
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, and was established on November 11, 1919. This marked the one-year anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I, “The war to end all wars.” President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the day as one “to b filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service 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…”
It was not, however, dedicated a national and legal holiday until May 13, 1938, when Congress approved an Act stating this.
How do people celebrate Veterans Day?
While Veterans Day used to be a day for remembering fallen soldiers in past wars, it is now a day that is set aside for reflection, honor and remembrance for those soldiers who served and died, soldiers who served and lived, and those who are still serving today. Veterans Day activities take special care to give thanks to veterans that are still living.
Memorial Day, however, is a day for honoring those in America that served in a war and died for their country.
There are many different ways in which people celebrate Veterans Day, both in their communities and on a national level. Many times, people spend time at a church or house of God. They attend a mass or reflect in quiet reverence on those that they knew personally that have served or are currently serving in the military. Veterans Day is a day for remembering not only those who died, but also those that are still alive and serving or retired. Veterans Day activities include flag-raising ceremonies, programs by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, moments of silence, parades and organized visits to veterans’ hospitals. Children are often given an assignment to write a letter to a veteran, either a stranger or someone they know, giving thanks for his or her military service.
How Did Armistice Day Become Veterans Day?
World War Two (1941 – 1945) saw the greatest mobilization of United States troops in the nation’s history, with more than 16 million people. Approximately 5.7 million more served in the Korean War (1950 – 1953). The 83rd U.S. Congress, in 1954, amended the 1938 act that made Armistice Day a holiday to use the word “Veterans” instead of “Armistice.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954, and the holiday was henceforth renamed “Veterans Day.” This change was largely pushed for by veterans’ groups throughout the country who felt that all those who served their country should have the honor of Veterans Day.
Other Changes in Veterans Day History
In 1968, Congress passed a bill called the Uniform Holidays Bill. This bill sought to ensure that federal employees would have three-day weekends by celebrating four nations holidays, including Veterans Day. The other holidays in the bill are Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day.
Under this bill, the observation of Veterans Day was set as the fourth Monday in October. However, the first observation of this new law on Monday, October 25, 1971, caused mass confusion. Many states disapproved of this change and continued to observe the original date of Veterans Day, November 11, as the holiday instead.
The significance of the holiday for so many Americans led President Gerald R. Ford to sign a new law in 1975 that returned Veterans Day to November 11, beginning again in 1978. If the November 11 day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the federal government observes the holiday on the preceding Friday or the following Monday, respectively.
How is Veterans Day Celebrated in the United States?
Many federal businesses, such as the U.S. Post Office and many banks, as well as local government offices will be closed in observation of the Veterans Day holiday. Many schools hold their own Veterans Day celebration within the context of their lessons, as well. Local communities often hold parades and other celebrations honoring the veterans within their immediate locale.
On a national level, there is an official wreath-laying ceremony held each Veterans Day at Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs advises that many people misunderstand the reasoning behind Veterans Day with the holiday of Memorial Day. Memorial Day honors though who died in service to their country, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead. However, it pays special attention to those who are living and served their country during war or peace.
Veterans Day Celebrations Around the World
Other countries, including Britain, France, Australia, and Canada also commemorate the veterans World Wars I and II on or near the same November 11 date. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain celebrates with Remembrance Sunday, on the second Sunday of November. In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to will observe silence for two minutes at 11 a.m. every November 11.