Each year on Nov. 11, Americans observe Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is about far more than a long weekend — people around the country use the day to reflect on the sacrifices of members of the military, and to thank them for their service.
Here’s what Veterans Day is, how it began and its original name.
What is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day gives Americans a chance to pay tribute to all service men and women, living or dead. Memorial Day, by contrast, is a holiday dedicated specifically to veterans who died during their service.
When is Veterans Day 2017?
The holiday is observed on Nov. 11 each year. WWI ended at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, and since Veterans Day began in remembrance of WWI vets, the date stuck.
What was the original name of Veterans Day?
The holiday initially began in remembrance of WWI veterans. The original name of Veterans Day was Armistice Day.
Congress named the holiday Armistice Day in 1926, according to VetDay, and declared it an official national holiday 12 years later. In 1939, however, WWII broke out in Europe. With more Americans joining the military, a motion to broaden the holiday beyond WWI veterans began to gain steam. In 1947, the first general tribute to military members, called Veterans Day, was held in Birmingham, Ala. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a bill officially proclaiming Nov. 11 Veterans Day.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was also interred on Nov. 11, 1921. Almost a century later, Arlington National Cemetery still holds poignant remembrances on Veterans Day.
How is Veterans Day observed?
Many schools and businesses close in observance of Veterans Day, and many shops and restaurants offer discounts to active and former military members to thank them for their efforts. In Europe, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, people often observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, according to History.com.
How many veterans are there today?
By Census estimates, almost 20 million veterans currently live in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 41 million people served at some point during the nation’s history.