Veterans Day is celebrated every year on November 11th. It is an official United States Holiday that honors military veterans, both living and deceased. It is not to be confused with Memorial Day, which recognizes veterans who have passed both during wartime, peacetime and after serving.
Veterans Day dates back to the end of World War I. On November 11th, 1919, then President Woodrow Wilson issued a message that declared November 11th, 1919 the first Armistice Day. This declaration formally marked the end of World War I when the Armistice with Germany went into effect the year prior in 1918.
A Congressional Act approved in 1928 made Armistice Day a legal holiday each year. It was to be known as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
It wasn’t until after World War II in 1945 that a World War II veteran brought about the idea that Armistice Day should be expanded to celebrate all veterans, not just those from World War I or World War II. Raymond Weeks, the man behind the idea of expanding Armistice Day, led the first celebration of Veterans Day in 1947 in Alabama. He was deemed “The Father of Veterans Day.”
A bill was finally signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954, 8 years after Weeks held the first celebration of Veterans Day, that changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day and declared it to be a day to acknowledge, honor, and give thanks to all veterans who are still living.
Today, there are 16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war and 5.2 million veterans served in peacetime, giving us a total of 21.3 million veterans. Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 558,000 are still alive.
Ways to observe this holiday include personally thanking a veteran, either in person or by sending a letter, visiting the grave site of a veteran, attending a local Veterans Day ceremony, or visiting the Arlington National Cemetery to witness the ceremony held each year to honor veterans.