Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 to honor and thank all military personnel who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans.
It was originally called Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I. World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. But, the fighting ended about seven months before this date, when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, was greatly considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and dubbed Armistice Day.
In 1926, Congress officially recognized November 11 as the end of the war, and in 1938, it became an official holiday. The holiday was a day set aside to honor the veterans of World War I. However, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the commemoration yet again by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.
Other countries also celebrate Veterans Day. Canada, Great Britain, and Australia call November 11 “Remembrance Day.” Canada’s observance is pretty close to our own, except many of its citizens wear red poppy flowers to honor their war dead. In Australia, the day is similar to our Memorial Day.
We now always acknowledge November 11 as Veterans Day as this “helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good” (US Department of Veterans Affairs), but this wasn’t always the case. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, and it moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. But in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, citing the important historical significance of the date.
Resources for veterans and their families:
Virginia Department of Veterans Services
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
Mitchell Hash Foundation (local organization)
Legal Services for Veterans
Books about Veterans Day:
Caught Up in Time: Oral History Narratives of Appalachian Vietnam Veterans by John Hennen
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Down Range: A Transitioning Veteran’s Career Guide to Life’s Next Phase by James D. Murphy and William M. Duke