Americans celebrate Veterans Day every November 11th. This holiday commemorates those who have served in the armed forces. The date was chosen in remembrance of the ending of World War I hostilities in 1918. While the holidays are similar, Veterans Day is distinguished from Memorial Day in that Veterans Day includes the honoring of all of those who have served while Memorial Day is reserved for those who have lost their lives while serving.
This day thanks and commemorates all of those who have served in the United States military. The honored include all wars, but celebrations are focused on living veterans. Schools and offices will close. Almost every major city will host a parade, featuring military units and marching bands. Many of these celebrations are selected by the Veterans Day National Committee to be celebrated in different regions and rotated around different cities. Other traditions include:
- Hanging the American flag at half-mast.
- Educational events at libraries or museums.
- At 11 a.m., many observe a period of silence.
- Ceremonies at the Veteran Association’s National Cemeteries.
- Musical concerts
- Dinners and luncheons
- Military demonstrations
- Events at war memorials
- Visit monuments in Washington DC and at historical and memorial sites all over the country.
Typical ceremonies may follow a traditional Veterans Day program. This starts with the prelude and posting of colors. A band may play as the audience enters the venue. Next, there will be a procession and posting of colors, meaning the American flag, and optional military banners. Then, the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the national anthem will be commissioned by the program’s leader asking the audience to stand. Next, the MC will give introductory remarks—sometimes the Veterans Day Proclamation of the President is used for this. The band will then play a patriotic themed song.
Traditional services then introduce the ceremony’s guests, which are often community veterans along with veterans from the institution’s faculty. Many ceremonies will try and attract guests from a variety of wars. The principle speaker then takes the stage. This will be a veteran or someone who is associated with veterans, or perhaps an official from the government. When these ceremonies take place in schools, the next aspect is usually the reading of a student essay, which many schools select through contests or assignments. The ceremony closes with a moment of silence and a retiring of the colors.
At Arlington National Cemetery, the Veterans Day National Ceremony is held at 11:00, the same time of World War I’s end. It begins with a wreath laying ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknowns and ends with a parade.
At the end of World War I hostilities, Germany and the Allies reached an armistice on November 11th, 1919 during the 11th hour. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day, to be filled with solemn pride and reflection for the war’s Veterans. He commissioned celebration with parades and gatherings.
The United States Congress did not recognize the ending of World War I until 1926, when it was decided that the anniversary would be officially recognized as a day to remember and thank veterans. Armistice Day was then established on May 13th, 1938. At the time, the holiday was only a remembrance of the World War I veterans. After World War II and then the Korean War, this holiday was expanded to include all veterans in 1954. Raymond Weeks, who had served in World War II, had focused efforts on campaigning for the holiday’s expansion. Some consider the veteran the “Father of Veterans Day.”
Veterans Day was moved to October in 1971, but was changed back in 1975 after the holiday had been troubled by confusion and the fact that states kept celebrating the holiday in November. If the holiday falls on a weekday, many celebrations will be held on the weekend before or after. But when it takes place on the weekend, citizens are usually given the Friday before off instead.
About the United States Armed Forces
The President is the overall leader of the United States Armed Forces. Second on the chain of command is the Secretary of Defense. The Armed Forces have long been not only a defense system but also a source of patriotism and national identity.
The United States military ranks among the largest in the world. It is made up of paid volunteers, as drafting has not been used since 1972. The money spent on the military makes up around 43% of military expenditures in the entire world. The first official military unites were established for the Revolutionary War by the Second Continental Congress.
The branches of the United States military include:
- The Army, who enlists over 500,000 active personnel. It is not only the largest but the oldest military branch. It is the main military force, as the army specializes in land defense.
- The Navy, which contains 317,464 active personnel. This branch is in charge of naval warfare and defense of U.S. territories via sea. The U.S. has the largest Navy in the world, having a fleet that is larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world.
- The Marine Corps, with 195,000 active personnel, is a component of the Navy and specializes in combined-arm tasks, which may include forces on land and sea. The marines develop high-level naval bases and often use ships to transport planes and ground unites to a hostile source, allowing for an airplane runway close to the site of interest.
- The Air Force, with about 332, 854 active personnel. This branch is in charge of aerial warfare and other airborne military services. The Air Force began as part of the army but was established as a separate branch in 1947, making it the youngest American military branch.
- The United States Coast Guard is unique in the way that it has a maritime law enforcement, which means that it holds its own jurisdiction in domestic and some foreign waters. The Coast Guard is a multi-mission service that focuses on maritime safety.