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Veterans Day 2021: Why is Veterans Day celebrated on Nov. 11? Holiday history, facts

This Vietnam War memorial wall at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park (Lawrence Specker/

Veterans Day is a time to thank those who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

The origins of Veterans Day come from the end of World War I. On Nov. 11, 1918, an armistice between the U.S.-led Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Though the war wasn’t officially over until the Treaty of Versailles was signed seven months later, Nov. 11 is recognized as the end of the “war to end all wars,” according to history from the Veterans Administration.

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of what was then known as Armistice Day, saying “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice 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…”

The day was originally celebrated with parades and a brief suspension of business at 11 a.m. Congress officially recognized the day with a resolution passed on June 4, 1926.

The Congressional resolution said:

“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

It was then that the day – Nov. 11 – was officially recognized as the date of the holiday.

Almost 30 years later, after U.S. soldiers had served in World War II and Korea, Congress voted to change the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in honor of all those who served in the military.

Veterans Day remained on Nov. 11, no matter which day that fell, until the passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill. The 1968 law was intended to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Veterans Day was first moved off its Nov. 11 day to a Monday on Oct. 25, 1971.

“It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates,” the VA noted.

The change was not well received.

“It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens,” the VA said.

On Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a bill returning Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11. It continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. In 2021, the holiday falls on Thursday, Nov. 11.

Veterans Day is sometimes confused with Memorial Day, held in May, which recognizes those who died while in military service; and Armed Forces Day, also observed in May, which honors those currently serving in the U.S. military.

Facts on veterans

  • There are more than 17.4 million veterans in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census.
  • 1% of veterans are women.
  • 5.9 million veterans served during the Vietnam War
  • 7.8% of veterans served in the Gulf War era.
  • About 240,000 of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II were still alive as of 2021.
  • 933,000 veterans served during the Korean War.


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