Always wanted to meet a real-life superhero? Then you are in luck for November 11 is Veterans Day, an opportunity to thank the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, who often risk their lives to protect our freedom. This includes all those who have served in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
Formerly known as Armistice Day, the 100-year-old tradition 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 November 11, 1918, armistice between the Allied Nations and Germany, which led to the end of the four-year, three-month-long “Great War.” Armistice Day, which became a federal US holiday in 1938, was renamed as Veterans Day in 1954 to include World War II (1939—1945) and Korean War (1950—1953) soldiers.
The 1968 Uniform Holiday Bill passed to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees altered the dates of the celebration of four national 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.
To end the confusion, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law to return the celebration to its original date. The law went into effect in 1978, and since then, Veterans Day has always been observed on November 11.
Though Memorial Day and Veterans Day both celebrate American military personnel, they each serve a different purpose. Memorial Day, commemorated on the last Monday of May, honors all US soldiers who have died or sustained a wound in a war. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American soldiers – both living and dead. Its primary purpose, however, is to thank living veterans for their service and sacrifices.
Most Americans show their gratitude by participating in one of the numerous parades held nationwide. Though that is a great start, there are countless other things you can do show your appreciation for the soldiers. Invite the veterans in your family or neighborhood for a meal and talk to them about their experiences. Alternatively, deliver food and supplies to the closest veteran center or, even better, spend time with injured soldiers who may be confined to their homes. Most importantly, be sure to always thank veterans for their service to the country.
Several countries worldwide honor their soldiers on November 11, as well. In the United Kingdom, the holiday pays tribute to all soldiers, living or dead, while in Canada, it is a day to honor all living veterans. The holiday, however, goes by different names. France and New Zealand still refer to it as Armistice Day, while the UK, Australia, and Canada call it Remembrance Day. Malta and South Africa celebrate it as Poppy Day.