There are 19 Million veterans living in the USA – reason enough to thank them on a designated holiday. Since the End of World War I, this has taken place on Veterans Day in November.
Festive parades and ceremonies are as much a part of this holiday as Veterans Day Sales with amazing bargains for active and retired US soldiers.
In this article, you will learn what the history of Veterans Day is all about, where you can see the biggest celebrations, and which institutions are closed on this special day.
Veterans Day – History and Meaning
The history of Veterans Day goes back to the year 1919. One year before, on November 11, an armistice had been signed by the German Reich and the Western Powers, which effectively ended World War I.
On the first anniversary of that day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed the American people with a proclamation, talking about progress, prosperity and democracy, but also commemorating the men who had fought for these very ideals.
November 11 was first turned into an official holiday in 1926 – and named Armistice Day. Originally planned as a memorial day for World War I veterans, the meaning of Armistice Day underwent a transformation during the century. Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was renamed Veterans Day, and in 1954, its meaning was extended to celebrate all former members of the US military who had been discharged under honorable conditions.
Veterans Day is not the only occasion dedicated to America’s troops. Other such holidays include:
- Memorial Day: a federal holiday commemorating fallen US soldiers in May.
- Armed Forces Day: another holiday in May, honoring all active members of the US Military.
- Womens Veterans Day in July: the anniversary of the date when women were first allowed to enter the armed forces.
In addition, all branches of the US Military have their own holidays, which do not have the same status as Veterans Day, but are accompanied by parades and displays: for example, the Marine Corps’ Birthday on November 10, or Air Force Day on September 18.
Veterans Day – Festivities and Ceremonies
Veterans Day is of utmost importance for the national identity of the US, and includes a number of spectacular ceremonies and festivities – among them:
Veterans Day would not be the same without festive parades that see veterans, active military personal and reservists march side by side – accompanied by bands, and a sea of American flags. The biggest parade is held in New York, by the way: 20.000 members of the military and half a Million viewers take part in the New York Veterans Day Parade, which dates back to the year 1919 and is even broadcast on TV. Of course, there are also parades in Florida: for example, in Tampa, Orlando or Miami. If you want to see the state’s biggest parade, you should go to Jacksonville.
Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most important memorial sites in the USA – even more so on Veterans Day. At 11 am, the service starts at the „Tomb of the unknown Soldier“, a symbol for all fallen US servicemen. After the national anthem, the US President performs a wreath-laying ceremony to express the country’s gratitude. Similar ceremonies take place all over the country, and in the days leading up to Veterans Day, many cemeteries are decorated with American flags.
A common symbol that often adorns uniforms on that day are red poppies. This flower was mentioned in John McCrae’s poem “In Flander’s Fields” and has been used to commemorate fallen US soldiers since the end of World War I.
Moment of Silence
According to a resolution by the US Congress, all Americans are encouraged to observe two minutes of silence at 3:11 pm on Veterans Day. This decision is fairly new. It was issued in 2016 by the Obama administration to “honor the service and sacrifice of veterans throughout the history of the nation” (114th Congress – S.1004).
Veterans Day Sales
On Veterans Day, Many shops in the USA take the opportunity to thank former servicemen with special sales and offers. Gas stations, for example, offer free gas for veterans, while restaurants do not charge anything for coffee. Depending on the store, these discounts also apply to active military personnel, reservists, first responders, nurses, and teachers.
Contribution of the NFL
Every year on Veterans Day, the North American Football League (NFL) hold a “Salute to Service” in honor of America’s ex-servicemen. This includes football games, of course: For every point at the Salute to Service Games, 1,000 USD goes to non-profit veteran organizations. In addition, members of the military accompany the players on the field and take part in the pre-game and half-time shows. On the NFL website, fans can buy patriotic merchandise like hats and T-shirts.
Veterans Day is not only celebrated in the public domain. Individually, many Americans take the opportunity to say “thank you” to Veterans and visit memorial sites. At houses, you can often see the American flag – raised briskly, that is. Unlike Memorial Day, when the flag is in half-mast position, Veterans Day is a day of joyful celebration. Thus, there is nothing wrong with wishing each other “Happy Veterans Day”.
Donating to veterans organizations is also popular on that day, and many volunteers send packages to soldiers stationed overseas. In the last years, Veterans Day has become an occasion for the media to raise awareness about issues like difficult job prospects for veterans or PTSD due to combat experience.
Veterans Day – Date
Every year, Veterans Day takes place on November 11 – the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Fittingly, public events start at 11 am sharp.
Please note: If November 11 is a Sunday, Veterans Day will fall on the following Monday. If it is a Saturday, the ceremonies are either held on that day or the Friday before.
Here are some weekdays for past and future Veterans Days:
- Veterans Day 2020: Wednesday
- Veterans Day 2021: Thursday
- Veterans Day 2022: Friday
- Veterans Day 2023: Saturday, instead on Friday
- Veterans Day 2024: Monday.
Veterans Day – Opening Hours
As a federal holiday, Veterans Day is celebrated in all states of the USA. This means that non-essential government institutions stay closed – just like post offices, banks and the stock exchange.
For private companies and schools, the rules are less strict. They can decide for themselves if they want to close on Veterans Day or not. The same applies to stores. Most of the big chains like Walmart, Best Buy and Target are open. In addition, restaurants, theme parks and museums use the large number of visitors to turn a profit on Veterans Day.
Veterans Day FAQ – Frequently asked Questions
What is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is a US holiday for all ex-members of the military who have been honorably discharged. It has been celebrated since the year 1919.
When is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day takes place on November 11 every year. If Veterans Day falls on a Sunday or Saturday, though, it is custom to celebrate it on a Monday or Friday instead.
Is Veterans Day a federal holiday?
Yes, Veterans Day is a federal holiday, and thus celebrated in all states of the USA. This means that government buildings, post offices and banks are closed. Most stores and restaurants, however, stay open.
What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?
While Memorial Day commemorates the sacrifice of fallen US soldiers, Veterans Day is held in honor of all former servicemen in the country.