What Is Veterans Day? Honoring All Who Served (2021 Edition)
Veterans Day is observed to celebrate the service of our former United States Armed Forces personnel. This includes service members from all branches of the military: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. Since it’s a federal holiday in the United States, many schools are closed during Veterans Day and a great deal of U.S. workers are given this time off. There are other holidays that celebrate the military in the U.S., but if someone asks you specifically, “What is Veterans Day?” the important thing to tell them is that it’s a day to celebrate living veterans, or former members of the military who were discharged and are alive today. The other thing to know about Veterans Day is that there is no apostrophe in the word “Veterans.” This is meant to signify that it’s a day for the celebration of all veterans, and not a day that belongs or is owned by veterans. It’s a day for the public to show their support and maintain the good faith the U.S. has in our nation’s relationship with the military.
Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?
You might be asking, “why is Veterans Day important?” But the better question to ask might be who it’s important to.
We celebrate Veterans Day to honor the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who put their lives on the line to defend the freedoms that we take for granted.
Formerly Armistice Day, Veterans Day is a time when America comes together to recognize and respect the hard work of our former service members who are no longer in the military. Living veterans, whether they served for four years or forty years, and who were not dishonorably discharged, are the reason for the season. This distinguishes Veterans Day from a separate holiday called Armed Forces Day, which celebrates military personnel who are currently serving. It’s also distinct from Memorial Day, another holiday focusing on armed service members. There’s also a movement to legitimize Women Veterans Day, celebrated on June 12th, though it isn’t yet nationally recognized. We celebrate Veterans Day to give back to these people in a grand show of public support.
Veterans Day History
The history of Veterans Day is interesting, as it’s a holiday that was created in the U.S. and only celebrated in its exact form here, though other countries have similar holidays that resemble it. Once an international day to note the end of a worldwide conflict, it’s now a day where Americans thank the men and women in their lives who served in the nation’s military. How we got to this point is a fascinating story. The broader scope is that originally Veterans Day was called Armistice Day, and Armistice Day was celebrated around the world as the end of the First World War. World War I, also called the Great War, was a conflict that pitted the forces of Germany, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Bulgaria against the allied countries of Great Britain, France, Japan, Russia, Romania, and Italy. The war began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and took place between 1914 and 1918. Armistice Day was created to mark the end of the first truly multinational conflict, “the war to end all wars.” The name comes from the armistice the Allies formed with Germany to pause the fighting, which occurred at 11am on November 11th. The eleventh hour of 11/11. The armistice was not to last, though, and the war didn’t end in practice until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919. Before then multiple armistices began and then lapsed. Through pressure and advocacy by many veterans groups throughout the U.S., Armistice Day was eventually changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
Veterans Day Meaning
With the change in name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, the meaning was altered as well. Veterans Day in the U.S. no longer focuses solely on the end of the First World War, but on the service of our living veterans who served for any length of time, whether in combat or not. The meaning can be very personal, depending on the individual celebrant. For veterans themselves, the meaning of the holiday can take a variety of different forms. It can be a day of reflection, where veterans think back on their time in service to their country or a day when they remember those they served with. It can be a day for civilians to show that they care about the time that their friends and relatives put in to pave the way for a successful society for them to live in. Many veterans and veteran organizations use the opportunity to educate younger generations about military service and its importance to the nation.
What Day is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is November 11th, every year. However, November 11th is still Armistice Day in a large part of the world. To the international community, it continues to mark the end of World War I. Other nations that once formed the Allies during the war still call the day Armistice day. Some of them have also changed the name, but not to Veterans Day like in the States. Instead, those countries call the holiday Remembrance Day.
Today, the Veterans Day National Ceremony is celebrated at 11 am at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. (Click to Tweet this)
To learn more about the history and explore fun facts about Veterans Day, visit our sister site, AHRN.com’s blog, 18 Veterans Day Facts You Might Not Have Known.
Memorial Day vs Veterans Day
Veterans Day is a day to celebrate all living members of the military who have served, while Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have died in service to their country. (Click to Tweet this)
Memorial Day takes place every year on the final Monday in May. There are generally parades, speeches, and other celebrations that culminate in a ceremony around a memorial or cemetery for fallen members of the U.S. military. Memorial Day doesn’t discriminate in terms of the time period, either. All deceased Americans who paid the ultimate price while serving are honored. Memorial Day is a day of appreciation, but also very much a day of mourning. Whereas Veterans Day is a time when we get to say thank you to the people who served while we still can.
More like this: Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
5 Veterans Day Quotes of Appreciation
Maybe you’re looking for some tips on what to say to a veteran on Veterans Day. It’s very popular for someone to say “thank you for your service.” It’s a simple and sincere way to show your appreciation. A simple “thank you” will also suffice. We’ve also compiled 5 of our favorite quotes to express our gratitude to the brave men and women that have served our country for you to share:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John F. Kennedy (Click to Tweet this)
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou (Click to Tweet this)
“For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.” – Unknown (Click to Tweet this)
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell (Click to Tweet this)
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” –Winston Churchill (Click to Tweet this)
Additional Ways on How to Thank Someone for Their Service
Beyond this, you should treat veterans like regular people. Start up a conversation, ask them to tell you about their time in the military. As long as you aren’t being disrespectful or asking them specifically about combat or other personal matters, people usually respond well to questions about their lives and experiences. People like others who are open-minded and genuinely curious.
Start with something like “would you be willing to tell me about your service?” There are many initiatives meant to give service members a taste of home while they’re deployed, initiatives like organizing letter writing campaigns or sending care packages, because being away from your family and friends and everything you know can be very hard. You can ask a veteran “what did you miss most about home while you were deployed?” if they served overseas.
Sometimes though, “thank you for your service” isn’t enough. There are many veterans out there who are struggling and need help, and there are lots of ways to show your appreciation beyond words. Consider donating to a veterans charity, or hiring a veteran if you’re an employer. Parading and celebrating for one day a year with respectful words on your lips is certainly fine, but being better to our veterans 365 days of the year goes much farther.
Veterans Day is a time to respect and celebrate the people in your life who have served in the military and have been discharged. It’s different from other holidays that focus on military members like Memorial Day, Armed Services Day, Women Veterans Day, and international holidays like Armistice Day and Remembrance Day. This is a day for Americans to thank the members of the community who have put in the time to defend the nation and the freedoms that we enjoy. It’s a time to appreciate the sweat and blood of close to 20 million veterans who live and work in America today. The history is important to remember, too, in order to understand why other countries around the world celebrate Armistice Day or Remembrance Day instead. Americans can remember and be proud of the role the country played in the Allied victory during World War I and know that once we celebrated that victory with the world. But there have been many conflicts since then, and many, many more veterans. Now, this holiday serves to remind us to appreciate what we have while we have it. Don’t wait to thank a veteran. Be kind, listen, and help wherever you can. Because they already have.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.