Honoring our Veterans

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Jessica Allen Pauses for a moment to remember all the veterans who have sacrificed for her freedom.  Photo by Melinda Lundgreen

Jessica Allen Pauses for a moment to remember all the veterans who have sacrificed for her freedom. Photo by Melinda Lundgreen

Veterans Day is celebrated in the United States on November 11th which is the day that WWI ended in 1918. The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate and commemorate the effort and sacrifice of those that have served in the armed forces.

President Woodrow Wilson declared in 1919 “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day [Veterans 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 the nations…”

Veterans Day, previously known as Armistice Day, was instituted to commemorate the armistice reached at the end of WWI on the 11th day at the 11th hour in the 11th month of 1918. In 1954 President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day at the request of veterans service organizations to be more inclusive of all veterans, including those of the Korean war and WWII.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website explains that the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is that Memorial Day is meant to memorialize those who died in the nation’s service, particularly those who died in battles. Veterans day, on the other hand, is to honor and express gratitude to all “who have served honorably in the military — in wartime or peace” and is often used as a way to show appreciation for living veterans.

In 1968 the holiday was changed to the fourth Monday in October in accordance with the Uniform Holiday Bill. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website the purpose of this was to create another three day weekend to “encourage travel, recreation, and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production.”

Many states did not agree with the change and continued to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th. In 1975 the federal government passed a bill changing Veterans Day back to the original day of November 11th. The bill took effect in 1978.

There are 21.2 million military veterans living in the United States as of 2012. Nearly half of them are over 65.

Some ways to get involved helping veterans are to send a care package or letter, help a veteran share their story with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, or simply say thank you.

Check out operationgratitude.com for more information on sending letters or care packages, and loc.gov/vets for more information on helping a veteran share their story.

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