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On Wednesday, November 11th, Americans will celebrate Veterans Day. The special holiday is dedicated to the brave men and women of the armed forces who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep the rest of us safe and free. They include members of the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
The holiday was first celebrated on November 11th, 1919 by U.S. President Wilson as Armistice Day to honor the soldiers that served during World War I. The "Great War" as it is often called officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ceased seven months earlier on November 11, 1918, at precisely 11:00 am, when an armistice between the Allied Nations and Germany was declared. As a result, November 11th became the date of choice for the celebration.
While President Wilson encouraged Americans to commemorate the day with parades, public meetings and even urged businesses to suspend work briefly at 11:00 a.m, Armistice Day did not become a legal holiday until 1938. In 1954, after the U.S. had engaged in two more wars - World War II and the Korean War, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day to include the military personnel that served in these two battles as well. In 1968, there was an attempt to move the date so that Americans could enjoy a three-day weekend in October.
However, the first Veterans Day celebration under the new law observed on October 25th, 1971 caused much confusion. Also, a majority of Americans were opposed to the change due to November 11th's historical and patriotic significance. In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law reinstating Veterans Day to November 11th, a tradition that continues, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls.
People are often confused about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Though both holidays honor military personnel, Memorial Day is a day to remember and pay tribute to soldiers who died in battle or due to a wound sustained in one. Veterans Day, on the other hand, celebrates all military personnel that has served the nation during war or peace. Its primary purpose is to thank living veterans for all their sacrifices and contributions.
Though several other countries also celebrate this day, the significance is slightly different for each one. The United Kingdom observes it in honor all soldiers - living or dead, while Canada celebrates all living veterans. It also goes by different names. France and New Zealand still call it Armistice Day. In the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, it is referred to as Remembrance Day while Malta and South Africa call it Poppy Day.
Though the names may differ, the purpose is the same - To show our gratitude to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our safety. So this Veterans Day be sure to try to seek out some of these amazing men and women and thank them for their courage and sacrifices. Or better still, see if you can make a difference in their lives by helping them with a small chore or two.