Veterans Day, November 11, is the time of the year when we commemorate every military veteran across the U.S. But what truly is the essence of Veterans Day? Sadly, some Americans are not aware of why we celebrate the sacrifices and bravery of our veterans on this day. It is important to know how and why Veterans Day is celebrated so that we can properly honor our former service members.
Take Note: Veterans Day is NOT Memorial Day
The Department of Veterans Affairs has disclosed that most Americans often confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. In essence, Memorial Day commemorates those in the armed forces and other service members who died due to injuries obtained in a war or while serving the country.
On the other hand, Veterans Day is generally celebrated to honor and give gratitude to living veterans who respectably served the military in times of peace and/or war. The deceased veterans are also remembered during Veterans Day, but this day is essentially reserved to celebrate the veterans who are still with us today.
The End of World War I
Veteran’s Day was initially called Armistice Day, a legal holiday in the US to celebrate the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.
In 1938, a law was passed to declare November 11 as a new US legal holiday, Armistice Day, to honor and celebrate the veterans of WWI. More specifically, the legislation stated that the day was dedicated to the “cause of world peace.”
From Armistice Day to Veterans Day
Thinking that WWI would be the only war that the world will experience, Armistice Day lost its luster after the US experienced World War II from 1939 to 1945 and the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Thus, veterans service organizations urged the government to amend the Act of 1938.
In 1954, the 83rd U.S. Congress finally amended the 1938 Act by removing the word “Armistice” and adding the word “Veterans.” This legislation was approved on June 1, 1954, declaring November 11 as the day to celebrate and honor American veterans of all wars.
The Attempt to Move the Holiday to October
In 1968, a bill was declared that would move four national holidays, including Veterans Day, to Mondays. Known as the Uniform Holiday Monday Act, the bill intends to provide federal employees with three-day weekends. With this legislation, Veterans Day was transferred from November 11 to the fourth Monday of October.
Many states, objecting to the changed date for Veterans Day, continued to observe the holiday on November 11. In fact, when the first Veterans Day under the new legislation was celebrated on October 25, 1971, there was massive confusion.
Nov. 11 is Veterans Day
On September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford finally signed legislation that brought the Veterans Day holiday back to its original date of Nov. 11, starting in 1978.
Since 1978, Veterans Day has always been observed throughout the country on November 11.
When the holiday falls on a Saturday, however, the federal government observes it on a Friday. If it’s on a Sunday, the federal government observes it on a Monday. Closings for the federal government are set by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management while those for state and local government are determined locally. Non-government organizations and businesses, on the other hand, have the prerogative to open or close during the holiday.
Please make sure to take the time to recognize the military veterans in your life on November 11th.