Veterans Day, which falls on November 11, is a special day dedicated to honoring and recognizing all the men and women who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military to protect our freedoms.
Veterans Day: This significant observance, held annually on November 11, pays tribute to military veterans from various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s important to distinguish Veterans Day from Memorial Day, as the former honors all military veterans, living and deceased, while the latter is specifically dedicated to remembering those who gave their lives while in service to the nation.
A Brief History of Veterans Day Originally known as Armistice Day, this holiday was first proclaimed on November 11, 1919, by President Woodrow Wilson, one year after the end of World War I. The purpose of Armistice Day was to pay homage to the fallen soldiers of the Great War, recognizing their sacrifices and bravery. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution requesting annual proclamations on November 11, making Armistice Day a legal holiday.
The transformation of Armistice Day into Veterans Day was driven by World War II veteran Raymond Weeks. He believed that the holiday should honor all veterans from various wars rather than solely those who had perished in World War I. Weeks’ advocacy led to the inaugural Veterans Day celebration in 1945 in Alabama, a tradition continued annually until his passing in 1985. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan honored Raymond Weeks with the Presidential Citizenship Medal and recognized him as the ‘Father of Veterans Day.’
The evolution of Veterans Day culminated in the year 1954 when U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas, introduced a bill to establish the holiday. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a fellow Kansan, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954, expanding the scope of the holiday to encompass all American veterans. The holiday’s name was officially changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
However, in 1971, Veterans Day was temporarily shifted to the fourth Monday of October due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This change was finally rectified on September 20, 1975, when President Gerald R. Ford signed a law reinstating Veterans Day’s observance on November 11, commencing in 1978.
Celebrating Veterans Day Veterans Day is observed as a federal holiday. If it falls on a Saturday, the federal government observes it on a Friday, and if it falls on a Sunday, it is observed on the following Monday. State and local governments make their determinations regarding closings or operations, irrespective of federal guidelines.
In addition to the traditional observance, the United States Senate passed Resolution 143 on August 4, 2001, designating the week of November 11 through November 17 as National Veterans Awareness Week. This resolution aimed to foster educational efforts targeting elementary and secondary school students, with the goal of promoting awareness of veterans’ contributions and sacrifices.
A Call to Action: “Be the One” Members of The American Legion Family organizations, including The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, and Sons of The American Legion, host special events across the nation to demonstrate support for veterans. However, anyone can make a meaningful difference in a veteran’s life.
This Veterans Day, The American Legion Family invites everyone to participate in the “Be the One” mission. The mission focuses on destigmatizing the act of seeking mental health support, providing peer-to-peer support and resources, and educating individuals on how they can be the one to help.
The significance of this mission is underscored by Pentagon data indicating a troubling rise in military suicides over the past decade. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 2022 National Veteran Suicide Annual Report, suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death among veterans aged 18 to 44.
To make a positive impact, here’s what you can do:
- Ask veterans in your life how they are doing.
- Be a compassionate listener when a veteran needs to talk.
- Extend your hand when you sense a veteran might be struggling.
Veterans in need of support can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 (press 1), or they can text 838255. Additionally, they can visit the VA crisis line website at www.veteranscrisisline.net.
This Veterans Day, take part in the “Be the One” mission, and remember the collective power of small acts of kindness. As 2023-2024 ALA National President Lisa Williamson emphasized, “Just be the one to save one.”
Veterans Day holds a special place in our nation’s history. Established to commemorate the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, it has evolved to honor all veterans who have served and continue to serve.
Key Figures about Veterans in the United States
- Approximately 19.5 million veterans reside in the United States.
- Over 9 million veterans are aged 65 and older.
- More than 5 million veterans receive disability compensation.
- Among those receiving disability compensation, about 2 million are female veterans.
- Half a million World War II veterans are still living in the United States.
- The Korean War saw the service of two million veterans.
On Veterans Day, let us unite in showing our appreciation for the selfless service of our veterans, and let us strive to make a positive difference in their lives.