Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. Benji is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2021

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history of veterans day

Veterans Day is a national holiday that falls on Nov 11.

Memorial Day is a holiday to commemorate and honor military personnel that died in service, especially related to battle.

You may look forward to this holiday as a freebie, an extra day off work or school when you get to catch up on some much needed sleep.

But beyond the holiday, what is Veterans Day all about? What is the history behind this federal anniversary, and what does it mean to you?

First and foremost

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day

Veterans Day is often mistaken for Memorial Day, and vice versa, although they are not one and the same:

Veterans Day is a holiday that extends thanks to living veterans that have served our country. Memorial Day shows gratitude to veterans that have died in war or related to war.

Veterans Day on November 11 overlaps similar commemorative holidays celebrated throughout the world, such as Remembrance Day and Armistice Day that mark the end of World War I. Veterans Day was recognized as an official holiday in the early 20th Century by President Woodrow Wilson, one year after the armistice to conclude World War I was put into effect.

To help differentiate between the two holidays,

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Here are a few important facts to remember about Veterans Day:

President Woodrow Wilson declared the Armistice Day holiday on November 11, 1919.

November 11 is significant since World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Veterans Day was recognized as a national holiday to honor World War I veterans on May 13, 1938.

Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Veterans Day is a holiday to thank all of the men and women that have honorably served in the following branches of the armed forces:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Marines
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard

What Is the Purpose of Veterans Day?

Originally called Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson introduced Veterans Day as a federal holiday on November 11, 1919 by stating:

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..

Most veterans recognize the importance of November 11 since it marked the end of the Great War, World War I.

11th hour of the 11th day of the 11thMonth

After fighting ceased in World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was declared between Germany and the Allied nations.

Armistice Day, later called Veterans Day, was initially celebrated with public meetings and parades. At that time, businesses normally delayed opening until 11 AM.

The Act was approved on May 13, 1938, to declare November 11 a federal holiday every year. The day was dedicated to world peace and for the purpose of celebrating living veterans that served in World War I.

After World War II devastated the nation, followed by the Korean War, the US Congress amended the Act passed in 1938 to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day as an official holiday. The legislation was approved on June 1, 1954, allowing November 11 to serve as a day to honor all American war veterans year after year.

Veterans Day was then set to be observed as the fourth Monday in October: October 25, 1971, was the first date of the new Veterans Day holiday. Unfortunately, many states bucked this change since it caused confusion with the long-standing November 11 holiday.

the Treaty of Versailles Signed

The Treaty of Versailles wasn’t signed until 1919 to end the war officially. Nonetheless, November 11, 1918, remained a day of significance when the greatest war the world had ever seen was finally laid to rest.

June 4, 1927

The U.S. Congress finally recognized the conclusion of World War I when they passed a resolution that stated:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed …

Three Day Holiday

Congress took it one step further by passing the Uniform Holidays Bill to ensure that federal employees were granted three day holiday weekends. This bill was also intended to promote tourism and travel throughout the nation to boost the economy. The bill related to four specific national holidays that fell on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.

President Gerald Ford- Veterans Day Holiday Started

In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law that reinstated the original Veterans Day date of November 11, starting in 1978.

Not to worry, the three day weekend bonus is still a possibility. If Veterans Day falls on a weekend, the federal holiday will be celebrated on the previous Friday or following Monday.

Veterans Day is animportant national holiday that is celebrated with a commemorative color guard ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, each year.

Every November 11 at precisely 11 AM, various military branches gather together and merge into one unified color guard. This color guard participates in a national ceremony to honor all American war veterans at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

Within the touching ceremony, “Taps” is sounded on a bugle. The current president and other government representatives lay a wreath at the Tomb. Several veteran service organizations participate in a Parade of Flags near the Tomb, inside the Memorial Amphitheater.

If you aren’t able to make it to the main Veterans Day ceremony in Arlington, there are a myriad of other opportunities to celebrate the holiday in your local area. The Veterans Day National Committee organizes regional celebrations that follow suit with official ceremonies and memorial activities to honor both living and deceased war veterans.

Tomb of the Unknowns

Depending on where you live in the US, you may choose to visit a local veteran memorial site to pay your respects on the holiday, such as:

  • Kansas City, Mo: National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial
  • Washington, DC: National World War II Memorial
  • Honolulu, Hi: Pacific National Monument
  • Washington, DC: Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Washington, DC: Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Cumberland, MD: Gulf War Memorial

For example, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is an impressive site to visit to celebrate those who fought and lived through the Vietnam War. According to History.com, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall cost an impressive $8.4 million to build, or $18.7 million in today’s economy.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was funded privately without any financial support from the government.

Was designed by none other than a 21-year-old Yale undergraduate. The names on the Memorial Wall are organized chronologically by the year that a soldier was killed or reported missing, with listings dated from 1959-1975.

The Memorial Wall currently holds 58,272 names.

Listing categories include soldiers confirmed dead, missing soldiers declared dead, POW/MIA, and missing soldiers returned alive. To date, no soldier has been found in the latter category: missing and returned home alive.

Understating the rich history behind such a remarkable memorial wall can cultivate an even greater appreciation for the Veterans Day holiday. If you live near a memorial site or want to honor a loved one that has served in the armed forces, taking a trip to visit a veterans’ memorial is a meaningful way to celebrate.

In your area, Veterans Day may be commemorated in a variety of ways, ranging from an official ceremony in the style of the Arlington National Cemetery service to a residential parade that honors hometown heroes.

Veterans Day celebrations may be held at:

  • Local cemeteries
  • VFW halls
  • School assembly halls
  • Public town squares
  • War memorial sites

Across-the-board, Veterans Day ceremonies are always observed with reverence and honor. You can expect parades, speeches, or ribbons and flowers placed on military graves to show veterans how much we appreciate their time of service.

A traditional Veterans Day service will include poppies as a special token to remember veterans of World War I. Since the conclusion of the Great War, World War I veterans have been honored by civilians that wear both real and artificial red poppies, which arenative to Belgium. The symbol came about from a World War I poem called “In Flanders Fields” that referenced poppies; the poem was commonly used in eulogies for fallen soldiers throughout the war.

A Veterans Day ceremony would not be complete without two minutes of silence to honor veterans at precisely 11 AM on November 11.

Although Veterans Day may be an excuse to skip out on work or school for many, towns throughout the US gather together to thank the millions of men and women that have served or currently serve our country.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Veterans Day, as long as your heart is in the right place. Here are several recommended ideas from the US Department of Veterans Affairs to commemorate this important holiday:
  1. Prelude and posting of the nation’s colors, i.e. the American flag.
  2. Singing the National Anthem.
  3. Pledging allegiance to the American flag.
  4. Outdoor flag raising ceremony, often performed with the National Anthem and/or Pledge of Allegiance.
  5. Speeches to introduce honored veterans or to remember fallen heroes.
  6. Special patriotic music program from a band or choir.
  7. Guest speaker, such as an honored veteran or political figure.
  8. Traditional moment of silence observed at 11 AM.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are >21.8 million veterans that currently live in the United States.
This breaks down to:
  • 20.2 million male veterans
  • 1.6 million female veterans

Veterans can be found in any city throughout our great nation. You may have one or more veterans in your family. You may be a veteran yourself. You may have friends or coworkers that are veterans and not even know it!

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Cities that have high percentages of veteran populations include:

  • Hampton, VA 20.9%
  • Fayetteville, NC 22.1%
  • Jacksonville, NC 22.6%
  • Clarksville, TN 24%
  • Killeen, TX 28.9%

For veterans that have been fortunate enough to transition more smoothly back into their home environment, unemployment is still a potential pitfall after leaving the military.

Veterans that have most recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have higher unemployment rates compared to the rest of the population.

Although government spending during the Obama administration has increased significantly for veteran affairs, veterans of all ages are still in need of serious help.

Note: Data represent the 12 month moving average unemployment rates among people 18 years and older; non-seasonally adjusted.

Veterans that have found gainful employment may struggle in other critical areas – namely, from a lack of health insurance.

Currently, one in 10 veterans under age 65 don’t have health insurance and don’t use Veterans Affairs Care.

This boils down to 1.3 million veterans under age 65 and 948,000 adult and children family members that are currently uninsured.

An uninsured veteran is more likely to be young, have recently served in the military, have a lower level of education, work less than 40 hours a week, and be single. An uninsured veteran may also be unemployed.

Clearly, veterans deserve our appreciation and are in desperate need of our support to get back on their feet after returning from their time of service.

If you’re wondering what you can do to find help as a veteran or support veterans in your life, read on to find out…

Conclusion: How to Help a Veteran Today

Based on the statistics listed above, young, single veterans returning from war may need the most help of all. One effective way to help a veteran succeed after service is by providing them with the support they need to attend and graduate college as they transition back into civilian life.

Veterans that attend college need support from other veterans

The good news is that a number of colleges and universities are advertising more “veteran-friendly” classes, programs, and degrees than ever before. The United States government has set aside billions of dollars in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill for this exact purpose.

But not so fast… Many colleges and universities are aggressively recruiting veterans to take advantage of federal funds. Veterans that sign up for school without both eyes open may not be fully equipped with the skills they need to compete academically and relate to other students in a college setting.

It is for this reason that a number of veteran-friendly universities are now opening veteran centers.These centers are designed to offer veteran students a support base where they can meet other veterans and take advantage of resources that may include personal and career counseling.

Collegiate success for a veteran is entirely possible with the right expectations and support system in place. A veteran student preparing for college can heed the following guidelines:

  • Expect a bumpy transition
  • Connect with other veterans

No veteran is going to transition seamlessly into a completely new atmosphere, especially on a college campus. To set yourself up for success as a veteran, it helps to prepare for a major transition that may not come easy to you. Consider college to be a new world that you must embrace. While the change may be difficult at first, it will begin to feel more natural as you relate to fellow veteran students and make new friends.

Speaking of veteran friends, it’s important to look for veteran-centered programs on a new college campus. If you have enrolled in a veteran-friendly college, as mentioned above, you may be able to take advantage of a number of programs that encourage socialization with other veteran students. If your school doesn’t have any such resources, consider connecting with other young veterans at a local VFW or in an online support group. Any type of encouragement during a time of transition helps.

Open your mind to civilian relationships

Even though it’s critical to reach out to other veterans during a time of transition, don’t forget about making civilian connections as well. Step outside of your veteran bubble from time to time to join student organizations that strike your interest. Take civilian students up on their offers to socialize, no matter how intimidated you may feel at first. It will get easier and easier with each invitation.

If you have a veteran in your family that is transitioning back to civilian life, reading the tips listed above can help you understand where they’re coming from.

A major transition from military service into the “real world” is never easy, no matter how prepared a veteran may seem.

Asking a friend or family member returning home from warhow you can help may be help enough.A veteran that feels isolated and overwhelmed may simply need a friend to listen. A veteran with serious physical or psychological injuries may need help around the house or rides to and from physical therapy appointments. Remain flexible, open, and willing as you offer your support to a veteran in your life.


If you know a veteran that suffers from PTSD, counseling for both parties may be in order.

You may not have the skills to support a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend with PTSD. A veteran with PTSD returning from war often struggles to trust those closest to them. They will need to work through emotions and traumatic memories in a safe setting, such as with a therapist or counselor. You may also benefit from counseling to better understand what it is like to have PTSD and learn tools that you can use to help.

If you are looking for a way to support veterans throughout the US, a simple “thank you” can be worth its weight in gold.

Giving up your seat for a veteran, offering to pay for their meal in a restaurant, or shaking their hand and sincerely thanking them for their service can go a long way to show them how much you appreciate what they have done for our country.

You can reach out to veterans around the nation on Veterans Day and throughout the year with these helpful tips:

  • Write a letter of thanks to a veteran you know or to an organization that connects you with veterans, like Thank a Veteran.
  • Spend a day volunteering
  • At a VFW event or VA hospital in your area.
  • Donate funds or items you no longer need, like iPods, clothing, or books, to a VFW or VA hospital.
  • Reach out to homeless veterans
  • By donating money or time; consider volunteering in a soup kitchen.
  • Offer to provide free transportation

For Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to shuttle veterans in need to VA medical facilities.

If you keep your eyes and ears open, there are literally hundreds of opportunities to help veterans around you. If you know men or women in service, you can bring meals to their families or volunteer to foster their petswhile they are deployed. You can also donate your time and money to a number of military and veteran organizations that support veterans, as well as men and women in service.

Veterans Day may be one day out of the year, but it can be so much more. Recognizing and appreciating veterans gives us an opportunity to thank the men and women who have served for their contribution to our freedom.


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