Holidays 101: Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?

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Veterans Day honors Americans who served in wars. The day marks the end of World War I. Originally, the holiday was known as Armistice Day but later changed to honor all war veterans.

When Is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is observed every Nov. 11. That date symbolizes the end of World War I. World War I ended in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. At that time an agreement was reached between the Allied nations and Germany to end the conflict. The war officially ended June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Is Veterans Day the Same as Armistice Day?
In 1919, a year after the end of conflict, many countries declared Nov. 11 as Armistice Day. The day was designated as a day to remember the ending of the war and honor those who served in World War I. Armistice Day became a federal holiday in the United States in 1938. It was later renamed Veterans Day.

Why the Name Changed
World War II mobilized more than 16 million people from all the armed services, making it the greatest mobilization in U.S. history. The Korean War saw the mobilization of 5.7 million Americans. Following those two wars, veterans' service organizations lobbied Congress to rename the Nov. 11 holiday Veterans Day. The groups believed the day should honor those who served in all wars. On June 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that renamed the holiday and officially made it a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Has Veterans Day Always Been on Nov. 11?
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill. This ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by observing holidays on Monday instead of on a specific date. Congress also believed the bill would encourage tourism and travel. Congress moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. Under the new law, the first Veterans Day that was not on Nov. 11 was Oct. 25, 1971. This caused confusion. Many states decided to continue to observing Veterans Day on Nov. 11. In 1975, President Gerald Ford agreed that the actual date carried a historical significance, so he signed a law moving Veterans Day back to Nov. 11.

Veterans Day Observances
The day recognizes the service of veterans both living and dead. Ceremonies and parades are held in communities throughout the country to mark the day. At Arlington National Cemetery an official wreath-laying ceremony is held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Many restaurants will offer free meals or discounts to veterans and active service members.

Veterans Day Is Different from Memorial Day
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day is a day to thank and honor all those who served. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while in service of their country.

Veterans Day in Other Countries
Other countries recognize their veterans on or around Nov. 11. Like the United States, these countries use the ending of World War I as a historical marker for the day. Canada, Great Britain, France and Australia call the holiday Remembrance Day to honor their veterans of World War I and World War II.