American veterans have been around since the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t until the last century that there was an official day of appreciation dedicated to the brave men and women who have fought for this country. Veterans Day, observed on November 11th every year, is an official US holiday that honors military veterans.

Today at Peer Support Central, we wanted to take a few moments to talk about the history of Veterans Day, and what the average person can do to show appreciation for veterans in their town. At Peer Support Central, we offer many peer support courses geared towards veterans and active duty service members. Take a minute to look at our military peer support courses here.

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The History Of Veterans Day

Towards the end of World War I, the Allied nations and Germany agreed to a cessation of war, or an armistice, that was to take place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This date became known as Armistice Day throughout many countries to celebrate the end of the biggest war the world had seen at that point, as well as to honor those who served. Even though the official end of the war did not come until June of 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the day is still remembered as the beginning of the end of WWI.

One year later on the first observation of Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson offered the following message on what Armistice Day meant to himself and his fellow Americans:

“A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations… To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with – solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”

Celebrations of Armistice Day that year included parades and public events, as well as moments of silence at schools and businesses. This began the tradition of using this day as a day of remembrance.

By 1926, 27 states legally recognized November 11th as a holiday, and by 1938 Armistice Day was declared a holiday at the federal level. Around that time, Congress passed legislation stating that November 11th “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” At this time, Armistice Day was just as much a remembrance holiday as it was an opportunity to continue to promote peace and unity among nations.

When World War II came around, more Americans served than in any previous war – and subsequent war, for that matter. 16 million Americans served, leaving almost as many new veterans at the end of the war, yet Armistice Day primarily celebrated the veterans of WWI. Thanks for efforts by multiple veteran’s organizations, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all veterans who served in all wars.

In an attempt to create more 3-day weekends for federal employees, Veterans Day was briefly added to the “Uniform Holidays,” and moved to the fourth Monday of October. This date was designed to act like Memorial Day or Columbus Day, which fall on Mondays and often give employees the day off. This was implemented in 1971, but by 1975 President Gerald Ford changed it back to November 11 due to the significance of the date.

Millions Of Veterans To Give Thanks For

As we approach Veterans Day, it is important to remember the millions who have served to protect our freedom.

  • There are 21.3 million living veterans, of which over 16 million served during at least one war.
  • Over 2 million of these veterans are women.
  • Of the living veterans, about 7 million served during the Vietnam War, almost 6 million served during the Persian Gulf War, and 2 million served during the Korean War.
  • Over 16 million Americans served during WWII. Today, only about half a million WWII veterans are still living.
  • California is the state with the highest number of US veterans with about 1.7 million living veterans. Texas and Florida have the second and third highest veteran populations, respectively. These are the only states with over 1 million veterans.
  • About 28% of veterans over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or higher as of 2015. This is comparable to the 30.8% of non-veterans who had an equivalent degree or higher.
  • Veterans make up a little over 8 percent of the total working population and account for nearly 10% of all small business owners.

What Can You Do For Veterans Day

Many people spend the days leading up to Veterans Day wondering what they can do to show appreciation. Thankfully, there is no shortage of events and organizations that help veterans. Here are a few ideas to show appreciation for veterans in your life and for those you do not know:

  • Visit With Veterans: Many elderly veterans are living in VA hospitals or nursing homes. Contact a facility near you and arrange a visit. Chat with veterans about their service. Ask about the branch they served in, what their favorite moment was, how long they served. Refrain from forcing information out of a veteran or asking about specific details that they may not want to remember.
  • Support veteran business owners: Like we said above, nearly 10% of small businesses are owned by veterans. Find one in your neighborhood and use their services this weekend.
  • Express your gratitude: If you see a person in uniform or wearing indicators that they served, offer them your thanks.
  • Teach someone about Veterans Day: Take what you learned in this article and pass along some information. Make sure people understand the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. If you have young children, talk to their teachers about planning a Veterans Day lesson at school, or if you are a veteran yourself, offer to come in and answer questions from the students.
  • Donate: There are many veteran organizations looking for both financial and time donations. Choose a local or a national organization and offer what you can.

Remember Veterans Year-Round

The best way to celebrate Veterans Day is to give thanks to military families and service members throughout the year. If you are a veteran interested in becoming a peer support specialist to help other veterans who share your experience, or if you are in search of a peer support group for veterans, contact Peer Support Central today.