Veterans Day is an American holiday that honors and celebrates all military personnel who served in times of both war and peace. The holiday is observed on November 11 because the fighting during World War I ended when Germany and the Allies agreed to an armistice at 11 am on November 11. Originally known as Armistice Day, it became an official holiday in 1938 and primarily honored World War I veterans. After 16,112,566 Americans served in World War II and another 5,720,000 served in the Korean War, veterans service organizations asked Congress to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans.” On June 1, 1954, Veterans Day became a holiday to celebrate any American veteran, regardless of when and where they had served.
Veterans Day Versus Memorial Day
Many civilians confuse the purpose of Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Observed on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day is for honoring military members who died in battle or from wounds sustained in battle. Armed Forces Day, celebrated on the third Saturday in May, honors those currently serving in the United States military. Veterans Day is intended to thank veterans who are still alive for their service.
Veterans Day in Other Countries
Canada and Australia celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11, while Great Britain observes their Remembrance Day on a Sunday near November 11. In Australia and Great Britain, Remembrance Day is closer to America’s Memorial Day, while the Canadian holiday is closer to American Veterans Day in that it honors all veterans of Canada’s Armed Forces. On Canada’s Remembrance Day, they wear red poppies in memory of those who have died in the war, which is typically done in the United States on Memorial Day. The practice of wearing poppies to honor those who died in war service originated from the poem In Flanders Fields, written by John McCrae in 1915.
How is Veterans Day Celebrated?
Federal government offices are closed on November 11. If November 11 falls on a weekend, they are closed on either the preceding Friday or the following Monday. Schools, state and local governments, and businesses are not required to close and may be open or closed. Many communities observe the holiday with church services and parades, which may or may not fall on the actual date of November 11. Many restaurants and other businesses offer free meals, discounts, or other deals on Veterans Day, some specifically for veterans.