Veterans Day, once known as Armistice Day, was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919, the anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1928, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution for Armistice Day to be an annual observation, and by 1938, the day became a national holiday.
Differing from Memorial Day in May, Armistice Day, which would be renamed Veterans Day in 1954 under President Dwight Eisenhower, pays tribute to veterans who survived various wars. Memorial Day commemorates those veterans who lost their lives.
Americans celebrate Veterans Day, while residents of Great Britain, Canada and Australia celebrate Remembrance Day. Those who want to learn more about Veterans Day can consider the following facts.
• According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 18 million military veterans in the United States in 2018 — roughly 7% of the nation’s population. Women made up approximately 1.7 million veterans. It is projected that number will jump to 17% by 2040.
• California, Texas and Florida comprise the states with the largest number of veterans, equalling 1 million or more.
• Veterans consist of people who served in the military. This includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Veterans serve in times of war and peace.
• The word “veteran” comes from the Old English language and means “old, experienced soldier.” The first use of the word was documented in 1789.
• Although many veterans are working, and the average annual income of male veterans is $37,000, some veterans continue to be unemployed. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate for veterans rose to 7.6% in January 2013. The unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans or those who participated in the Gulf War reached 6.2%.
• Upon retiring or being discharged, veterans may need help acclimating to life outside the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs says about 30% of Vietnam War veterans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
• Between 1971 and 1977, Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October. It was changed back to its original date, Nov. 11, in 1975 when President Gerald Ford signed bill S.331 into law. The change went into effect beginning in 1978.
• An American soldier was buried at the national cemetery in Arlington on Nov. 11, 1921. His identity was unknown, and the gravesite is known as the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” A guard from the Society of the Honor Guard stands watch over the grave each year on Veterans Day, and the president or another high-ranking member of the government places a wreath on the grave.
Veterans Day occurs each year on Nov. 11, marking the end of World War I. The day has evolved into a celebration and remembrance of the heroism of America’s brave soldiers.