Veterans Day is permanently observed in the US on 11 November every year.
Many people look at the federal holiday, Veterans Day, as “just another three day weekend” or a reason to go shopping and “catch sales”. However, there is so much more meaning to Veterans Day than an extra day off work.
Veterans Day was originally known as ‘Armistice Day’. The dictionary definition of armistice is “which an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time; a truce”, thus Armistice Day was first celebrated on 11 November 1919 to commemorate the first anniversary of the end of World War I.
Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day (which is celebrated in May, with that three day weekend considered the beginning of summer), as Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans whether they are amongst the living or have passed away. On Veterans Day, the emphasis is on the living veterans who served their country honourably during war and/or peacetime.
Veterans Day is not isolated to the US. As World War I and II involved multiple countries around the world, other countries also honour their veterans on that day as well. For example, the UK, France, Australia, and Canada all honour the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near 11 November. Canada refers to their ‘Veterans Day’ as Remembrance Day, while the UK recognises theirs as Remembrance Sunday, which is the second Sunday of every November.
Although Armistice Day began being commemorated in 1919, it was not considered an official national holiday until an Act of Congress was passed in 1938. Over the years, the commemoration has incorporated other conflicts, and various Veterans Service Organisations championed the amendment of the 1938 Act to substitute the word Armistice with Veterans in 1954.
The 1954 name change has not been the only change to Veterans Day. 28 June 1968, the Holiday Bill was signed and the intended purpose was to ensure 3-day weekends for employees under Federal law, celebrating four national holidays on Mondays:
- George Washington’s Birthday;
- Memorial Day;
- Veterans Day; and
- Columbus Day.
The Holiday Bill was created in the hopes that it would encourage travel, plus recreational and cultural activities, and thus stimulating the economy. Fortunately, Veterans Day was changed back to its original date as the change caused too much confusion and it has remained 11 November ever since.
There is an old cliché that reads, “you can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been”. This may be completely lost on today’s youth as the younger generations may not grasp the reason for, and the importance of, Veterans Day, as the majority of them have lived their lives during peacetime. DD214 is a way for the younger generations to understand why we honour those who have fought so valiantly for our country often sacrificing and risking their own lives in the process. Remember that when someone has an understanding of something, it is easier for them to be able to honour and respect it more.
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