History of Veterans Day
Veterans Day, originally celebrated as Armistice Day, was first issued on November 11, 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson a year after the end of World War I. The purpose of Armistice day was to honor the fallen soldiers of The Great War for their sacrifice and bravery. 7 years later in 1926, Congress adopted a resolution requesting President Coolidge issue annual proclamations on November 11, making Armistice Day a legal holiday.
In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans rather than just the ones who died in World War I. He led a delegation to General Dwight Eisenhower, who was all for the idea. Weeks then conducted the first Veterans Day celebration in 1945 in Alabama and every year until his death in 1985. In 1982, he was honored by President Reagan with the Presidential Citizenship Medal. Weeks was also named the “Father of Veterans Day” by Elizabeth Dole.
Ed Rees, the U.S. Representative from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through to congress. Eisenhower, who was now President and also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954, 8 and a half years after Raymond Weeks held the first Veteran’s Day. A few weeks later, June 1, Congress amended the bill replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans.” The National Veterans Award was also created in 1954, first received by Congressman Rees for his support in making Veterans Day a federal holiday. Though the holiday is currently and was originally celebrated on November 11, the day was moved to the fourth Monday of October in 1971 due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. However, only 7 years later in 1978, it was moved back to November 11.
Veterans Day timeline
Burying an unknown soldier
The unknown soldier from the Vietnam War buried in Arlington National Cemetery was identified in 1998 as Michael Blassie, a 24-year-old pilot shot down in 1972 on the border with Cambodia
Father of Veterans Day
Raymond Weeks came up with the idea that Armistice Day should be dedicated to all veterans rather than solely the soldiers who passed during World War I.
Above and beyond
The National Veterans Award was created to honor outstanding veterans who made the greatest contributions to veteran organizations throughout the country.
Change of name
President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name of the day to Veterans Day to honor more than one set of veterans
Woodrow Wilson coined Armistice Day after World War One
Veterans Day Traditions
Give military-themed gifts
Most veterans prize the time spent serving their country and one of the best ways to honor that service is to present military-themed gifts like bottle openers (apparently a “thing” among vets,) wooden U.S. flags or specially-designed pens to the veterans in your life.
Check out Veterans Day restaurant deals
Big name restaurants are looking out for veterans-turned-foodies with Veterans Day deals on free dinners at Chili’s, Applebee’s, and all California Pizza Kitchens as well as breakfast specials at Golden Corral restaurants from 5-9 a.m.
Ship some cookies overseas
Remember your active service military friends and veterans’ organizations overseas with a goodie bag of cookies by Operation Cookies, a company owned and operated by veterans sending delicious, home-baked cookies to homesick military personnel stationed anywhere in the world.
Stats about Veterans Day
19.6 million U.S. veterans
There are currently nearly 20 million living U.S. veterans of wars such as World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
1.9 million female veterans
Women have served in combat arenas for only the last few decades.
500K Living World War II Veterans
There are fewer than half a million World War II veterans still living in the U.S. as of 2018.
Veterans Day FAQs
What is Veterans Day and why do we celebrate it?
How do we celebrate Veterans Day?
What is the importance of Veterans Day?
The importance of Veterans Day is to celebrate and honor all of America’s veterans for their bravery, sacrifice, and love for their country.
How to Observe Veterans Day
Hire a veteran
Veterans face barriers to employment including lack of preparation for civilian jobs, and unrealistic expectations for the kind of work and salary they can expect when they get home. But many leaving the military may have led troops into battle, often on multiple deployments, and as a result, they make fantastic leaders and employees.
Go for a run
Do a sponsored run for an organization like Homes for Troops, which assists injured veterans by building homes, and has figured out racing logistics. They specialize in offering support in fundraising so that you can focus on doing the run and raising as much money as you can to support veterans.
Offer freebies for veterans
Whether you run a business or work for one, thanking Veterans for their service by offering free products on Veterans Day is a great way of showing your support. Whether it’s tax return help or simply a cup of coffee, what can your business offer to thank a Veteran today?
Why Veterans Day is Important
It’s a chance to thank people for risking their lives to defend America
An estimated 20 percent of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, according to government statistics, and you’d be surprised at how valuable it can be to veterans to feel valued by civilians for their service and sacrifice.
It’s a chance to reflect on the importance of peace
While our military are often thought of in a war context, most veterans will tell you that they risked their lives to defend our fundamental freedoms, and that they value peace much more highly than war. Very few who have seen the real horror of war are anxious to rush into it, and Veterans Day encourages all of us to reflect on the value of harmony in our daily interactions and lives.
It draws attention to the challenges facing many veterans
Veterans face disproportionate rates of homelessness, deficits in educational achievement, a struggle to find employment and often, have to deal with devastating wounds. In many cases, post-traumatic stress disorder makes it hard for them to integrate into regular society. By understanding these challenges, we can all reach across those divides and make sure veterans have the best possible chance of having a healthy and fulfilling life after their service.
Veterans Day dates