Veterans Day is celebrated each year in the United States on November 11th. We recognize, as a country, all our veterans who have served in the armed forces and helped defend our great nation. Originally, the date was recognized as Armistice Day, in acknowledging the end of World War I and the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allied powers.
While the date was commemorated beginning one year after World War I, it was officially recognized as both a state and federal holiday in 1938 by an act of Congress (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a). Its name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day by an amendment to the Act in 1954.
It is very important to distinguish between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. On Veterans Day, we honor our living veterans. On Memorial Day, we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
In this very tense, unprecedented time that we live in, it is important to remember and recognize the veterans you have in your personal life and our veterans around the country. They deserve a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay.
Here Are Our “Top 5 Facts” About Veterans Day:
1. There are approximately 19-20 million+ veterans, in total, living today. By major conflict, they break down as follows:
World War I (1917-1918) – None, last one passed away in 2011.
World War II (1941-1945) – Estimated living veterans: 1,731,000
Korean War (1950-1953) – Estimated living veterans: 2,475,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975) – Estimated living veterans: 7,591,000
Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991) – Estimated living veterans: 2,644,583
War on Terror, Afghanistan and Iraq (2001-Present) – Estimated living veterans: 2,849,000
Soldiers deployed to combat zones globally, not listed above, who have engaged in combat, living today – 2 million+ (to include the Balkans during the 1990s, Somalia, Rwanda, Grenada, Lebanon, multiple countries in Africa, Panama, and Latin America)
2. Between 1971 and 1977, Veterans Day was celebrated on the 4th Monday of October. It was changed back to November 11th by a public law signed by President Gerald Ford.
3. Arlington National Cemetery has a Veterans Day ceremony every year to honor the fallen. The ceremonies are held around the “Tomb of the Unknowns” at 11:00 AM on November 11th. A combined color guard of all military services executes the “Present Arms” at the tomb.
4. Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, came up with the idea to honor all veterans on November 11th, not just the ones who died in World War I.
5. The word “veteran” first came in to use in 1789, when former British servicemen were referred to in Parliament as “veterans”, those who are older and with experience in combat. Today, the word has broadened its use to many professions to describe those with experience.
Fallujah, Mosul, Baghdad, Tora Bora, Kandahar … today’s battles reflect a country at war now for 16 years. They echo a previous generation still with us, whose formative battles included the Chosin Reservoir to Hue and Khe Sanh. Battles fought in faraway places to defend America, and the American way of life.
Veterans Day may not be as connected to days off from school, burgers on the grill, or a massive firework display. But remembering, and thanking, those who are still with us – who have given so much – is the least we can do. American military veterans represent the very best of us.
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