What is Veterans Day? As a broad overview, we observe Veterans Day to celebrate the service of our former United States Armed Forces personnel. This includes service members from all military branches: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force, and the Coast Guard.
Everyone who served our great nation deserves more honor and respect than any of us can give in just one day, but Veterans Day is a great jumping-off point for the rest of the year. Whether they served for three years or thirty, Veterans are the reason for this honorary season. You can use your day off to celebrate, reflect, thank Veterans in your life, and educate yourself on problems that Veterans face and how you can contribute to bettering the lives of Veterans in your community.
Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?
At one point, you may have asked, “Why is Veterans Day important?” But the better question to ask might be, “Who is Veterans Day important to?” Of course, the answer is our hardworking Veterans and their families.
We celebrate Veterans Day to honor the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and the rest of our service members who put their lives on the line to defend the freedoms that we so often take for granted.
Formerly Armistice Day, Veterans Day is a time when Americans come together to recognize and respect the dedication of our former service members. All in all, we celebrate Veterans Day to give back to the people who gave parts of their lives for our freedom and safety and to raise awareness about Veteran issues.
Veterans Day History
The history of Veterans Day is fascinating, as it’s a holiday that was created in the U.S. and only celebrated in its exact form here. However, other countries have holidays that resemble it. Once an international day to mark the end of World War I, it’s now a day when Americans thank the men and women in their lives who served in the nation’s military – no matter how, when, or for how long.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, and Armistice Day was celebrated worldwide as the end of the first World War. Armistice Day was created to mark the end of the first truly multinational conflict, or “the war to end all wars.”
So what is Armistice Day? Well, the name comes from the armistice that the Allies formed with Germany to pause all fighting, which occurred at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
The first time that the name “Veterans Day” was used was in 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. A WWII Vet named Raymond Weeks organized the first “National Veterans Day,” complete with parades and festivities. Eventually, Kansas U.S. Representative Edward Rees proposed a bill to officially change the holiday’s name to Veterans Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed the final bill that would establish Armistice Day as Veterans Day.
Veterans Day Meaning
With the change in name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day came a change in the meaning of the day, as well. Unlike Armistice Day, Veterans Day no longer focuses solely on the end of the first World War. Now, it’s a day to honor the service of living Veterans who served for any length of time, whether in combat or not.
The meaning of this day can be very personal, changing depending on the experiences of whoever is celebrating. Veterans Day can have a variety of different meanings for Veterans themselves, as well.
It can be a day of remembrance when Veterans reflect on their service.
It can be a day when Veterans think back on those they served with.
It can be a day for people across the nation to reflect on World War I and how we got to where we are today.
It can be a day for civilians to show that they care about the time that their compatriots put in to help create a free society for everyone to live in and enjoy as they see fit.
No matter what it means to you, take some time to reflect on Veterans Day history this November 11th.
More like this: The Meaning of Veterans Day: A Combat Veteran’s Perspective
Veterans Day Poppy
Many of us likely remember our primary school days when teachers would wear poppies on a random day of the year, and we might have all created red poppy crafts, as well. We probably had no clue what it meant back then, and some still don’t know. If you’ve always seen people wearing poppies on Veterans Day, there’s a good reason. It’s not just a random, pretty flower that says, “Hey, look at me! I remembered it’s Veterans Day!”
The Veterans Day poppy has massive significance, as poppies were the flowers that bloomed on the battlefield when the war was over and the earth had started to heal once again. The famous poem “In Flanders Fields” that talks about the aftermath of the World War I battlefield captures this topic beautifully.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
What Day Is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11th every year.
However, November 11th is still called Armistice Day and is celebrated as such in a large part of the world. To the international community, it exists to mark the end of World War I.
A few countries, like Canada, the U.K., and Australia, have changed the name, as well. Instead of calling the celebration Veterans Day, they use the term Remembrance Day.
Veterans Day Celebrations
Today, the Veterans Day National Ceremony is celebrated at 11:00 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Historically, there have been parades and celebrations all across the country that you can participate in, too.
There’s also a dedicated time for two minutes of silence on Veterans Day that was signed into law by the president in 2016. It lasts from 3:11 p.m. to 3:13 p.m. Atlantic standard time on November 11th.
Is Veterans Day a Federal Holiday?
Yes. As a federal holiday, Veterans Day is typically observed on November 11th each year. However, if the date falls outside of a weekday, then either the Monday or Friday before or after it will be designated as the federal holiday. This year, Veterans Day is on a Friday.
Is Veterans Day a National Holiday?
Yes. Veterans Day is celebrated as a national holiday on November 11th, meaning that all non-essential government offices are closed that day to allow people to celebrate, remember, and reflect. Schools and universities will also typically take the day off.
Does Veterans Day Have an Apostrophe?
You may have noticed at this point that Veterans Day isn’t spelled with an apostrophe. When pondering the question, “What is Veterans Day?” the apostrophe issue plays directly into the answer. The lack of an apostrophe signifies that it’s a day for the celebration of Veterans rather than a day that belongs to or is owned by Veterans. This isn’t Saint Patrick’s Day, after all. And believe it or not, Veterans are not a stingy group of people.
To learn more about the history and explore fun facts about Veterans Day, check out our blog, 11 Veterans Day Facts You Might Not Have Known.
Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day
Veterans Day is a day to celebrate all living members of the military who have served, while Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have died in service to their country.
Memorial Day takes place every year on the final Monday in May. It’s a day of appreciation, but it’s also very much a day of mourning. Memorial Day doesn’t discriminate in terms of the time period, either. All Americans who paid the ultimate price while serving are honored.
Veterans Day, on the other hand, is a time when we get to say thank you to the people who served while we still can.
More like this: Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
5 Veterans Day Quotes of Appreciation
Maybe you’re looking for some tips on what to say to a Veteran on Veterans Day. It’s very popular for someone to say, “Thank you for your service.” However, some Veterans may find receiving thanks like this to be a little awkward, no matter how well-intentioned.
Instead, you might share with them some famous quotes of appreciation. We’ve compiled five of our favorite quotes that express our gratitude to the brave men and women who have served our country.
1. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John F. Kennedy
2. “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou
3. “For the Veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.” – Unknown
4. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell
5. “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” –Winston Churchill
What To Say Instead of “Thank You for Your Service”
Beyond saying thanks, you should simply treat Veterans like regular people. If you’re wondering what to say to a Veteran on Veterans Day: just about anything (as long as it’s not obnoxious or disrespectful). Don’t walk on eggshells around them. Veterans are likely to tell you off if they get the sense that you’re treating them differently or pitying them. Believe us; we’ve seen it happen.
Start up a conversation. Ask them to tell you about their time in the military. Or don’t bring up the military at all. Act like you’re talking to your bro at the bar and treat them with the respect and decency you would any other human. No one wants to be treated differently because of something they’ve gone through, so don’t treat them like outsiders to be feared or approached with caution. Be honest, respectful, and kind. When in doubt, remember the golden rule.
Other Ways To Say Thank You (Without Saying Anything)
“Thank you for your service” isn’t enough. There are hundreds of thousands of Veterans out there who are struggling and need help in more ways than one. This leaves nearly endless ways for you to show your appreciation beyond words.
Consider donating to a Veteran charity, hiring a Veteran if you’re an employer, or volunteering for Veteran causes or organizations. Educate yourself on Veteran issues and find out how you can contribute to decreasing them.
The easiest and most effective way you can thank a Veteran is to simply be there for the Veteran(s) in your life. Continue to check in on them. Ask them how their day is going. See if there’s anything you can do for them or anything they need. Spend more time with them every day.
Parading and celebrating for one day a year with respectful words on your lips and an American flag in your hand is all fine and good, but being better for our Veterans 365 days of the year is what really makes a difference.
Like him or not, Barack Obama may have said it best when he proclaimed,
“It’s about how we treat our Veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.”
Celebrate Veterans Every Day
Veterans Day is a time to respect and celebrate the people in your life who have served in the military and have been discharged. It’s a day for Americans to thank the members of the community who have put in the time to defend the nation and the freedoms that we enjoy. It’s a time to appreciate the literal blood, sweat, and tears of the nearly 20 million Veterans who live and work in America.
Americans can remember and be proud of the role the country played in the Allied victory during World War I and know that, once, we celebrated that victory with the world. But there have been many conflicts since then, and many, many more Veterans. Now, this holiday serves to remind us to appreciate what we have while we have it and protect the wellbeing of those who protected us.
Don’t wait to thank a Veteran. Be kind, listen, and help wherever you can.
Because they already have.