Facts and history to teach your kids the importance of Veterans Day
Kids are so often swept up in the excitement of holidays that they don't fully grasp what the holiday is all about. But before you let your youngster write off Veterans Day as just another day off from school, help them learn what Veterans Day really stands for — as well as the importance of honoring those who have served our country.
These Veterans Day facts will teach them the true meaning of the holiday and the history behind the celebration.
What is Veterans Day?
Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day celebrates the end of World War I, paying tribute to all American veterans both living or deceased who served their country honorably during both times of peace and war. However, Veterans Day was not officially passed by Congress as an annual observance until 1926, became a national holiday in 1938 and was officially renamed Veterans Day in 1954 by President Eisenhower.
When is Veterans Day celebrated?
The first Veterans Day was celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill moved the celebration of this special holiday to the fourth Monday in October beginning in 1971. However, in 1975 President Ford returned the holiday's observance to the original date of Nov. 11 annually due to the historical significance of the date that the Allies and Germany declared a truce on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
How is Veterans Day different from Memorial Day?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that Veterans Day is often confused with Memorial Day. While Memorial Day honors American service members who died in service to their country, Veterans Day honors both but gives special thanks to living veterans.
How is Veterans Day celebrated?
Often accompanied by a day off from school and work, military veterans are honored on Veterans Day by parades and speeches, including a national ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
What is the Tomb of the Unknowns?
The Tomb of the Unknowns is the tomb where unidentified soldiers who died in combat are laid to rest just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The first unidentified soldier, who had been killed in France, was buried there on November 11, 1921 until the completed tomb was dedicated on November 11, 1932. Two other unidentified soldiers, one who perished fighting in World War II and the other who passed away serving during the Korean War, were also buried in the tomb. A fourth unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was entombed in the site in 1984, but was later removed once DNA tests identified him as Michael Blassie. Michael Blassie was a 24-year-old Air Force pilot shot down in May 1972 and was later disinterred and reburied by his family in Missouri.
More facts about veterans living in the United States
- Currently, the Census Bureau reports that more than 21 million veterans currently reside in the U.S.
- California is home to the most veterans in the country with more than 2.1 million current and former service members in the population. Four other states — Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania — also boast more than 1 million veterans each among their population.
- There were 1.6 million female veterans residing in the United States in 2012.
- There were 9.6 million veterans age 65 years and older and 1.8 million veterans age 35 years and younger living in the U.S. in 2012.
Originally published November 2013. Updated November 2016.