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Every November 11, Americans celebrate Veterans Day. The federal holiday honors the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, who frequently risk their lives to protect others. This includes everyone who has served in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. Veterans Day often gets confused with Memorial Day. The former honors all military veterans, including those still with us, while the latter pays tribute to those who died while in service.
US President Woodrow Wilson established Armistice Day — as it was then called — on November 11, 1919, to honor the courageous World War I soldiers. The date marked the first anniversary of the November 11, 1918, armistice, or ceasefire agreement, between the Allied Nations and Germany. The accord eventually led to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the "Great War" on June 28, 1919. Armistice Day was declared a federal holiday in 1938 and renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to include the soldiers that fought in World War II (1939 -1945) and the Korean War (1950 -1953).
Veterans Day continued to be celebrated annually on November 11 until the enactment of the 1968 Uniform Holiday Bill. Designed to allow Americans to enjoy three-day weekends, it changed the dates of four federal holidays — Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day — to a predetermined Monday. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October.
But due to the date's significance, many states continued commemorating Veterans Day on November 11. On September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford ended the confusion by reverting 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. Many other countries also honor their soldiers on November 11. France and New Zealand still refer to the holiday as Armistice Day, while the UK, Australia, and Canada call it Remembrance Day. Malta and South Africa celebrate it as Poppy Day.
Many Americans mark Veterans Day by participating in their city or town parades. There are many other ways to appreciate the brave servicemen and women. Invite the veterans in your family or neighborhood for a meal and learn about their experiences. You can also deliver some food and supplies to a nearby veteran center or, better still, spend time with soldiers who are too old or injured to leave their homes.
Happy Veterans Day!
Resources: History.com, VA.gov