November 11th was originally created as “Armistice Day” to mark the first anniversary of the end of World War I, celebrated with parades and other events. By 1938, it morphed into an annual, federal holiday. After World War II, there were grassroots efforts to make the holiday inclusive of veterans from all wars. The day officially became “Veterans Day” in 1954. However, for a few years in the 1970s, it was celebrated in October and became a three-day weekend celebration. Eventually, it moved back to November 11th, what we know now as Veterans Day.
Many other countries celebrate November 11 as well. France, New Zealand, and others celebrate Armistice Day. In Canada, Australia, and the UK, November 11 is called Remembrance Day or Poppy Day (named after the red flower that bloomed so profusely on the bloody battlefields of Europe).
What are we really celebrating on Veterans Day? The answer, of course, is U.S. military veterans, who have served and have now returned to civilian life. But sometimes the message gets lost.
One thing to recognize is that Veterans Day certainly is not Memorial Day. The Memorial Day holiday at the end of May is set aside to pay tribute to service men and women who gave their lives in the nation’s defense. It is not Armed Forces Day, either, as that is a chance to recognize all those who are currently serving in the military—although we should think of them everyday.
Veterans Day is for the 22 million Americans alive today who once served in our military. It is our day to thank the veterans living in our communities and throughout our country—whether they served in war or peace—for their service to the nation. Many organizations now set aside Veterans Day as a day of service, giving all of us a chance to give something back to veterans.
So, Happy Veterans Day and thank you to all who have served in our country’s defense!
If you want to say Thank You in a personal way, try making a Patriotic Pinwheel and giving it to a veteran that you know or bring to an assisted living center nearby. Click Here for how to make a Patriotic Pinwheel.