Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day in the US

Today we in the US celebrate the holiday known as Veteran's Day. Veterans Day was originally called "Armistice Day" which officially ended WWI on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

(Photo courtesy of, with the inscription "Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.")

Veterans Day was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. The day's observation included parades and public gatherings, as well as a brief pause in business activities at 11 a.m. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. As an aside, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest that same day at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The US Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.

(2010 Veterans Day poster courtesy of Click here to see all the previous posters from 1978 to the present)

Veterans Day should not be confused with Memorial Day. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, people often confuse the two. I'm not sure I believe these two holidays get confused because 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, celebrated nearly six months later, pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead. Services, parades, and such are especially designed to gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peace. But who am I to argue with the the Department of Veterans Affairs?

(Photo courtesy of with the partial caption: "President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. ")

I also learned from the Department of Veterans Affairs that:
  • In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This was so veterans of WWII could be honored, too.
  • 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 (sometimes referred to as Poppy 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.
  • Although it is considered a National holiday, in actuality, there are no U.S. national holidays because the states retain the right to designate their own, and the government can only designate holidays for federal employees and for the District of Columbia. In practice, however, states almost always follow the federal lead.
(courtesy of the office of the Dept. of Veteran Affairs)

Poppies are often worn in the lapel on Veterans Day. I remember my Grandfather always wore one. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Because I'm first and foremost a statistician, here are a few facts I learned about US service people (including current veterans) while surfing the web for Veterans Day information. Much of this information came from the US Census Bureau of all places!
  • 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.
  • As of 2008, 2.9 million veterans received compensation for service-connected disabilities.
I will leave you with this final quote, a bit of history I also noted above, that I found on
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Today I decided to save the sewn pages in my teal book in order to honor Veterans. I looked long and hard to find a blog that was written by a veteran, longer in fact than I should have, but the only ones I could find were ones that had long been abandoned. So I leave you instead with the web site of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Happy Veterans Day no matter where you live, or your age. Those who serve, whether current or former, deserve a special place in our hearts and our thoughts today, and always.

11 thoughtful remarks:

see you there! said...

Thank you for the history, very infomative. My Dad always wore an orange poppy too, as a vet himself it was very a very important thing to him.


~*~Patty S said...

very informative post E!
Happy Day of Remembrance to you too ... Mr M surprised me and took the day off

La Dolce Vita said...

yes, I remember those poppies, loved them as a child, my Dad always wore one too. xx's

Lynn said...

Thanks for the history lesson! I too remember red poppies. I salute all the vets in our lives and country.

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

Wonderful information! Our remembrance is so important and I still love when you donate to the veterans and get the red poppy flower.

olive said...

I stood for the 2 minutes silence here where I live, Elizabeth wearing my poppy with pride. My late Father was a career soldier and served in WW11 and the Korean War. We have Remembrance Sunday this coming Sunday when there is a ceremony of laying Poppies at the Cenotaph which is moving and beautiful. We must always remember. Ciao xxx

Terri Kahrs said...

Beautiful post and a great tribute to all of our Veterans. Hugs, Terri xoxo

Halle said...

Thanks for this post. Our local fire dept. had it's ladder truck fully extended with the flag flying once again. Always brings tears to my eyes.
I saw my dad's sister today and she told me her ordeal on Armistice Day 1940. She was on a train going home from visiting my aunt in Minneapolis.

Liverpool Lou (Anne) said...

A wonderful informative post Elizabeth.
Glad you had a wonderful time at Scott's and happy to see Wendy still keeping an eye on your activities :-)
Anne xx

Liverpool Lou (Anne) said...

PS don't worry if you can't visit me just pop round when you can ;-)
Anne xx