Veteran’s Day is the day we honor and celebrate our heroes, the military men and women who put their lives on the line to protect Americans and our way of life. Unlike Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day pays tribute to all veterans – alive or dead. The observance of this occasion began a long time ago, after World War I, a conflict that resulted in 8.5 million casualties. The war ended with an armistice, and this day was originally recognized as Armistice Day.
By November 1918, both the Central Powers and the Allies had been battling for four years and were exhausted. The British, French, and U.S. forces had been pushing back the Germans. Americans were able to send in fresh troops, so Germany was outmatched and started to crumble. The outcome of the war seemed clear. Even though the U.S. could invade Germany, it would cost too much and everyone was tired of the war. The Germans understood their weaknesses and knew they would not be able to prevent being conquered.
Germany requested an armistice, an agreement to end the war that saved either side from claiming victory or defeat. It took several days, but on November 11, the accord was met and for the first time in years, the sound of mortars and gunfire ceased. This happened at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month and is why we all take a moment of silence at this time each year on Veteran’s Day.
One year later, in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day. In 1926, it became a permanent legal holiday. Great Britain, France, Australia, and Canada also celebrate this day on or near the same date: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).
While Armistice Day celebrates the end of World War I and those who fought during it, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veteran’s Day in 1954 to honor all veterans from all conflicts.
Today, Americans honor their heroes by holding parades, hoisting the U.S. flag outside their homes, getting together with families, and visiting deceased loved ones at cemeteries. Arlington National Cemetery holds an annual memorial service.
- 2 million living veterans have served during at least one war since 2018.
- 9% of veterans are women.
- Seven million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
- Three million veterans have served in the War on Terrorism.
- Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, just under 500,000 were still alive as of 2018.
- Two million veterans served during the Korean War.
- As of 2017, Alaska, Maine, and Montana had the highest percentage of Veterans.
- In 2018, Connecticut was home to the highest percentage of World War II veterans at 7.1%.