Today, Veterans Day, we honor the men and women who have served our nation. We take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice they and their families have made for us, the people who enjoy the freedoms of the United States of America. All of us, regardless of our status as citizens, pay our respects to the more than 21 million military veterans, great men and women who proudly serve or have served in the armed forces.
Brief History of Veterans Day
Did you know there are about 21 million military veterans in the United States?
Every year on November 11th, Americans celebrate Veterans Day to honor the millions of men and women who have served in our country’s military. Did you know that this day did not always have the name Veterans Day?
We don’t know them all but we owe them all. — Anonymous
This day was originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the truce signed between the allies and Germany ending World War 1 (WW1) at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of the year 1918.
The first Armistice Day celebrated in the United States was the following year on November 11, 1919. On that day, all business and activities were suspended for two minutes at 11:00 am. After the two minutes of silence, parades and public gatherings were held. In following years, a tradition began that continues today, America honored the Unknown Soldier on Armistice Day. At 11:00 am on November 11 of every year since, a color guard ceremony representing every branch of the military occurs at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.
The name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all veterans, including those who served in WW1. Oddly, for seven years, the day was celebrated in October. Congress moved the day to October 4 in 1968 – so that Americans could enjoy a long weekend. Fortunately, in 1975, President Gerald Ford declared the day to move back to the original, historically significant day of November 11.
More facts about Veterans Day:
- 16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war.
- 5.2 million veterans served in peacetime.
- 2 million veterans are women.
- 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975).
- 5.5 million veterans served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present).
- Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II (1941-1945), about 620,000 are still alive.
- 2 million veterans served during the Korean War (1950-1953).
- 6 million veterans served in peacetime.
- As of 2014, 2.9 million veterans received compensation for service-connected disabilities.
- As of 2014, 3 states have more than 1 million veterans in among their population: California (1.8 million), Florida (1.6 million), Texas (1.7 million).
- The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.