When we think of November holidays, chances are Thanksgiving springs to mind first. But the first November holiday we celebrate in America is Veterans Day on November 11, which is our day to give thanks to the men and women who have served in the military. This Veterans Day, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices veterans have made and thank a veteran in your community.
A History - Celebration and Tribute
Veteran's Day, originally called Armistice Day, began November 11, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson commemorated the first anniversary of the end of World War I (which ended at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918). He paid tribute to Allied soldiers who lost their lives in "the war to end all wars." November 11 became a holiday, under different names, in the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and Canada.
In 1954, the holiday became known as Veterans Day in America to honor American veterans, living and dead, who served honorably in the military during war or peace. According to the Veterans Administration, there are 25 million living veterans. Veterans Day reminds us to thank them for their service while they are living, and to celebrate the freedoms they have protected.
In addition to expressing our appreciation to living veterans, Americans pay tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for our freedoms. The official national ceremony for Veterans Day is held each Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Color guards from all U.S. military services "Present Arms" at the tomb, a presidential wreath is laid and a bugler plays "Taps."
What You Can Do
Korean and Vietnam War veteran Robert W. Skelton, Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Army (Retired) of Lynn Haven, FL says, "I was honored to serve my country with distinction as did my father, brothers and uncles before me. The sense of pride in all veterans is tantamount to the preservation of our freedoms and way of life. Thank a veteran every day, not just on Veterans Day." Here are some ways you can say "thanks."
- Simply say "thank you" to someone who has served
- Attend a Veterans Day parade or public ceremony
- Fly an American flag
- Donate time or money to a veteran's organization
- Write a letter or poem expressing your gratitude. Ask the editor of your local paper to publish it
- Send a card, letter or care package to someone who is serving our country away
- from home
- Learn more about America's military history by reading a nonfiction book or asking veterans to share their experiences
- If you're a veteran, share your experiences with someone. The Veteran's History Project, administered by the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, is collecting and preserving audio and videotaped oral histories, letters, diaries, maps, photographs, home movies and other documentary materials of American veterans and those who've worked in support of them.
Here are some websites where you can learn more or look for other ideas on honoring veterans in your community: