Didn’t we just honor veterans on Memorial Day? Yes, but to answer my own question, Veterans Day and Memorial Day are similar holidays. Both recognize and honor the bravery and sacrifices of United States soldiers. However, there’s one important distinction: Memorial Day pays respect specifically to military personnel who lost their lives while serving their country. Veterans Day celebrates all U.S. veterans, living or deceased. As of 2018, roughly 20 million U.S. veterans were alive.
But before we go any further, it’s not “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day.” Veterans Day actually is spelled without an apostrophe. That’s because the holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans — so no apostrophe needed.
Why was Veterans Day created? On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed that ended the fighting with Germany, the last remaining Central Power in World War I. Streets around the world were flooded with celebrations as the news spread. People were filled with relief and pure joy as the war and devastation finally reached an end. In the following years, people celebrated the end of the war on that same day, and it became a national holiday in 1938.
Veterans Day is observed every year on November 11. It memorializes the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” when the armistice of World War I was signed.
Veterans Day originally was called Armistice Day. The name changed in 1954 to recognize veterans in all wars and times of peace. Britain, Canada, Australia and France celebrate their veterans on the same day as the United States. From 1971 to 1977, Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October. The date was changed back to reflect the historical significance of November 11. However, if November 11 falls on Saturday or Sunday, like next year, it is celebrated on the closest business day.
Incidentally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was memorialized on Veterans Day in 1921. And Arlington National Cemetery holds a memorial service every Veterans Day.
What do poppies have to do with Veterans Day? Poppies are a symbol of Veterans Day in multiple countries. On the Western Front of World War I, red poppies grew over the devastated countryside and started the process of healing. Today poppies serve as a symbol of remembrance for the soldiers who lost their lives in the war.
As Veterans Day approaches, consider how you can celebrate or give back. Maybe these ideas can get you started:
• Attend a Veterans Day parade
• Display a U.S. flag or place a small flag on a veteran’s grave
• Talk to a veteran and thank him or her for their military service
• Observe two minutes of silence to remember the sacrifices veterans have made
• Research books at the library about the wars involving the U.S.
However you choose to celebrate, find a way to make the day meaningful to you. Ask yourself how veterans have impacted your life and how you can show your appreciation?
Finally, Veterans Day should hold deep meaning for U.S. citizens, as it commemorates all U.S. veterans, living or dead, for their bravery and selfless acts. It serves as a time to remember and honor the sacrifices veterans have made throughout U.S. history to protect their country, particularly in times of war. Citizens across the country should take this opportunity to express their gratitude as well as appreciate the U.S. values soldiers have fought to protect.