Celebrated annually on November 11, Veterans Day gives Americans an opportunity to show their appreciation for some real-life superheroes — the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, who risked their lives to protect the nation's freedom. This includes all those who have served in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
There is often confusion between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday of May. While both honor the American military, they serve different purposes. Memorial Day commemorates US soldiers who have died or sustained a wound in a war. Veterans Day, meanwhile, pays tribute to all American soldiers — both living and dead. The holiday's primary purpose, however, is to thank living veterans for their service and sacrifices.
Armistice Day, as it was originally called, was started by US President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919, to commemorate World War I soldiers. The day marked the first anniversary of the armistice, or formal agreement, between the Allied Nations and Germany to cease all military operations at precisely 11:00 am on November 11, 1918. The accord eventually led to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the "Great War" on June 28, 1919. Armistice Day was declared a federal holiday in 1938 and renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to include the soldiers that fought in World War II (1939 -1945) and the Korean War (1950 -1953).
For the next thirty years, Veterans Day continued to be observed on November 11. However, that changed in 1968 with the Uniform Holiday Bill. Enacted by US officials to enable Americans to enjoy a three-day weekend, it altered the dates of four federal holidays — Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day — to Mondays. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October.
However, given the date's significance, many states were unhappy with the change and continued commemorating the holiday on November 11. On September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford ended the confusion with a new bill reverting the celebration to its previous date. The law went into effect in 1978, and since then, Veterans Day has always been observed on November 11, regardless of the day it falls on.
Most Americans celebrate the holiday by participating in their city or town's Veterans Day Parade. While COVID-19 restrictions have caused many events to be canceled this year, there are other ways to show your appreciation for the soldiers. You can deliver food and supplies to the closest veteran center or perhaps even write personalized thank you cards to each of the residents.
The US is not the only country that honors its soldiers on November 11. In the United Kingdom, Remembrance Day pays tribute to soldiers who have died in any war. While the main celebration is on the second Sunday in November, a two-minute silence is observed at 11 am at war memorials, religious services, and shopping centers throughout the country on November 11. Canada's Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day, and France and New Zealand's Armistice Day, all observed on November 11, also honor those who lost their lives in armed conflicts, in and since World War I.