Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
The First Veterans Day
Alvin J. King, the uncle of John Cooper, a soldier killed in World War II, approached his congressman, Edward J. Rees, and asked that Armistice Day be changed to a holiday that would honor all veterans from all wars. Congressman Rees did as asked and on June 1, 1954,
Many Americans thought that the date of Veterans Day was much too important to be altered, and in 1975, Congress changed the law. Since 1978, Veterans Day has been held on Nov. 11.
Veterans Day Facts & Stats
- In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
- In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
- Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).
- In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.
- George Patton, the famous World War II American military officer, was born on November 11, in 1885. Although he was born before Veterans Day was established, it is interesting that this famous war heroes shares his birthday with a day that honors veterans live now.
- There are approximately 23.2 million military veterans in the United States.
- 9.2 million veterans are over the age of 65.
- 1.9 million veterans are under the age of 35.
- 1.8 million veterans are women.
- 7.8 million veterans served during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975), which represents 33% of all living veterans.
- 5.2 million veterans served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present).
- 2.6 million veterans served during World War II (1941-1945).
- 2.8 million veterans served during the Korean War (1950-1953).
- 6 million veterans served in peacetime.
The brave men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life; they are parents, children and grandparents. They are friends, neighbors and coworkers, and an important part of their communities. If you know a Veteran or see one, be sure to thank them for their service. Today and every day.