Every year we spend Veteran’s day remembering and honoring service members who have fought in the armed forces. Most people don’t know the history behind the federal holiday and quite frankly often confuse it for Memorial Day. But they are completely different.
For starters, it was originally called Armistice Day. And the main difference between the two is that Memorial Day is to honor those Americans who gave their lives. Veterans day is to celebrate both living veterans and those who are no longer with us. The goal is to simply thanks those who have fought in our country’s service for their sacrifices.
November 11, 1918
In November of 1918, the German and Allied powers met in France to sign a document that signaled the end of World War I. After four years of war on November 11th, in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the war was finally over. The following year United States President Woodrow Wilson made an effort to publicly honor the services for those who lost their lives on Armistice Day.
In 1938 it became an official holiday, set aside to celebrate veterans of World War I. Post world War II and Korean War, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs urged that all veterans deserved to be celebrated, hence the transformation from “armistice day” to “veteran’s day”. In 1968 the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed, making sure that multiple legal holidays, including Washington’s birthday and Veterans Day observances, would take place on Mondays. This pushed Veteran’s Day to the fourth Monday of October.
Most Americans were not only unhappy about this but also continued to celebrate it only on November 11th. Finally, in October of 1971, a new bill was signed by President General Ford saying that Veteran’s day was returning to its original observation day.
In other countries, it bears a different name but it has the same premise of celebrating solemn pride they have for their country. In Canada and Australia, the holiday is called “Remembrance Day” and is also celebrated on November 11th. Australia’s holiday is more closely aligned with the American Memorial Day. Canada’s Remembrance day sees the country’s citizens wearing red poppies to remember those who served the country. The poppies became a symbol of remembrance for the country in 1921 when after World War I, they were the only flowers to grow around fallen solider’ bodies in the Flander’s field.
With this new knowledge, don’t forget to give any and all of the veterans in your life a sincere ‘Thank You’ for their military service. Without them, life as we know it doesn’t exist.