Veterans Day, observed annually on November 11, is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service, Veterans Day honors all military veterans, including those still with us.
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. Seven years later, in 1926, Congress adopted a resolution requesting that President Calvin 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 organized the first Veterans Day celebration in 1945 in Alabama and every year since, until he died 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.
In 1954, Ed Rees, the U.S. Representative from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill to establish the holiday to Congress. Eisenhower, who was then the president and also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954, eight and a half years after Raymond Weeks held the first Veterans Day. After having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress — at the urge of the veterans’ service organizations — amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word ‘Armistice’ and inserting the word ‘Veterans.’ With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
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. Finally, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.
The holiday is observed by the federal government on a Friday, if the holiday falls on Saturday, or on a Monday, if the holiday falls on a Sunday. Federal government closings are established by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. State and local government closings are determined locally and non-government businesses can close or remain open as they see fit, regardless of federal, state, or local government operation determinations.
The United States Senate Resolution 143, which was passed on August 4, 2001, designated the week of November 11 through November 17, 2001, as National Veterans Awareness Week. The resolution called for educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.
5 FACTS ABOUT VETERANS IN THE UNITED STATES
1.Many have served in at least one war
As of 2018, 18.2 million veterans who are still alive served in at least one war.
9% of all veterans in the U.S. are women.
As of 2019, the states with the highest percentage of veterans were Alaska, Wyoming, and Virginia.
4.World War II veterans
325,000 out of 16 million Americans who participated in World War II, were still alive in 2020.
5.The Korean War
Two million veterans served during the Korean War.
WHY VETERANS DAY IS IMPORTANT
A. It’s a chance to thank people for risking their lives to defend America
An estimated 20% of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, according to government statistics. You’d be surprised at how much it means to veterans to feel valued by civilians for their services and sacrifices.
B. It’s a chance to reflect on the importance of peace
While our military is 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.
C. 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 reintegrate 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.
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