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29 Veterans Day Facts Everyone Should Know

Learn the history behind the holiday with these fascinating Veterans Day facts

American Veteran holding a flag at 50th Anniversary of D-DayPeter Turnley/Getty Images

Facts about Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a national holiday held annually on Nov. 11 in the United States to honor those who served in the country’s armed forces. But aside from these basics, there are plenty of other Veterans Day facts you may not know.

The observance is about so much more than Veterans Day sales. It has a long, complex history of its own, involving multiple presidents, a name change and parades held across the country. Whether you want to learn more about Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day or are hunting for information about the holiday’s history, these Veterans Day facts are a good place to start. When you’re done, browse these Veterans Day quotes and learn about famous veterans, then search out where to find Veterans Day free meals.

close up of a native American Indian veteran hand, Charles Shay listens to the national anthem as he takes part in a ceremony on Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, western France on June 5, 2019, in homage to native American Indians who took part in the DDay landings of World War IILOIC VENANCE/Getty Images

Veterans Day facts everyone should know

1. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day because it marked the one-year anniversary of the temporary cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany during World War I. That armistice went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

2. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make Veterans Day an annual occurrence, but it didn’t become a federal holiday until 1938.

3. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day so it would honor all veterans rather than commemorate the end of a single war.

4. Officially, Veterans Day is always Nov. 11. But holiday office closures may shift when Veterans Day lands on a weekend. If Nov. 11 is a Sunday, businesses may observe the holiday the following day. If it lands on a Saturday, businesses might close on Friday instead.

5. Here’s one of those obscure Veterans Day facts you can use to impress your friends: In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Act, which put Veterans Day on the fourth Monday in October. It took effect in 1971, but in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law returning it to Nov. 11.

6. While Memorial Day honors Americans who died in the line of duty, Veterans Day commemorates all Americans who have served their country honorably, both living and deceased.

A man points to a name while visiting the Vietnam War Memorial on Veterans Day November 10, 2017 in Washington, DCAFP Contributor/Getty Images

Important Veterans Day facts

7. Veterans Day honors people who served in the U.S. military. Compare that with Armed Forces Day, which celebrates America’s troops, particularly those currently serving. It’s held on the third Saturday in May.

8. Women Veterans Day is held on June 12, marking the anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which President Harry S. Truman signed into law on June 12, 1948. Some states observe Women Veterans Day, but it’s not yet a nationally recognized holiday.

9. President Ronald Reagan designated July 16, 1983, a one-time commemoration known as National Atomic Veterans Day. It honored atomic veterans, or “American military service members who participated in nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, served with United States military forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki through mid-1946 or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki,” according to the White House.

10. President Joe Biden brought back National Atomic Veterans Day on July 16, 2021. And in December of that year, he signed legislation into law making it an annual commemoration of atomic veterans’ service.

11. Since 1954, the Veterans Day National Committee has overseen executive planning for the annual holiday. Members meet in Washington, D.C., three times a year to prepare for Veterans Day.

12. At first, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs was chair of the committee. But in 1989, when Veterans Affairs became a Cabinet department, the responsibility fell to the renamed Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The current chairman is Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.

President Biden Visits Arlington Cemetery For Services Honoring Veterans DayPool/Getty Images

Fascinating facts about Veterans Day

13. No, “Veterans Day” without the apostrophe is not a grammatical error. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the holiday doesn’t belong to veterans (in which case it would be Veterans’ Day) but is “a day for honoring all veterans.”

14. When it became clear that the holiday should commemorate more than the end of World War I, some people—including Francis Carr Stifler of the American Bible Society—advocated for Nov. 11 to be renamed Mayflower Day. In addition to World War I Armistice Day, Nov. 11 was also the day in 1620 that the Mayflower Compact was signed.

15. The 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery is home to the final resting place of more than 400,000 military service members and their families. As such, it holds an observance on Veterans Day every year at 11 a.m., the time the World War I armistice was signed.

16. During the Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, guards lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and veterans organizations hold a parade of colors. The ceremony is free and open to the public; attendees are encouraged to arrive at least an hour early.

17. Several other countries also mark the end of World War I on Nov. 11. Canada, Australia, France and Belgium call it Remembrance Day. Learn more about other countries’ roles in world wars—and enjoy yourself in the process—by pressing play on one of these military movies.

18. The United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries observe Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of November. It’s customary to observe two minutes of silence to honor people who died in war, a tradition that originated in South Africa before the end of World War I.

A service dog wearing protective glasses takes part in the Rapid Trident 2020 multinational military training exercise at the international peacekeeping security centre near Yavoriv, UkraineYURIY DYACHYSHYN/Getty Images

Veterans Day trivia

19. March 13 is National K9 Veterans Day, which honors American military and working dogs throughout history, like these service dogs who saved the lives of veterans.

20. To mark Veterans Day 2021, a group of Democratic lawmakers revived a previous legislative attempt to compensate surviving spouses and living descendants of Black World War II veterans whose benefits through the GI Bill were not equal to their white counterparts. As a result, they were denied educational benefits and the opportunity to build generational wealth through homeownership.

21. Though some schools close on Veterans Day, there is no standard rule for all educational institutions in the country. Local school boards make that determination for public schools, while officials at private schools, colleges and universities decide whether to hold classes on Nov. 11.

22. On Veterans Day in 2020, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., unveiled the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

23. Veterans Day honors all American troops who served honorably—regardless of whether they did so during war or peacetime.

24. Although the nation honors deceased members of the Armed Forces on Veterans Day, the government created the holiday to honor and thank living veterans. Keep reading for more Veterans Day facts many people don’t know.

close up of a hand holding red paper poppies for a US Veterans Day celebrationMediaNews Group/Getty Images

What to know about Veterans Day

25. So how many veterans are there in the United States right now? According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were around 19 million U.S. veterans as of 2021. We’re answering more of your war history questions ahead!

26. Each year, National Marine Corps Day celebrates its birthday on Nov. 10 with a traditional ball and a cake-cutting ceremony. Given that it’s the day before Veterans Day, it’s not unusual for some members of the Marine Corps to take a 96-hour liberty period to mark the occasion.

27. The New York City Veterans Day Parade—which takes place along Fifth Avenue—is both the largest and oldest Veterans Day parade in the country. The first one was held in 1919.

28. Although the poppy is a symbol of Memorial Day, the American Legion Auxiliary distributes red crepe paper poppies on Veterans Day as well.

29. The first celebration referred to as Veterans Day was held in Birmingham, Alabama, on Nov. 11, 1947. A World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks, a native of the city, organized the event, which included a parade and other festivities.

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Elizabeth Yuko
Elizabeth is a bioethicist and journalist covering politics, public health, pop culture, travel, and the lesser-known histories of holidays and traditions for RD.com. She's always mentally planning her next trip, which she'll base around visits to medical museums or former hospitals, flea markets, local cuisine, and stays in unusual Airbnbs or historic hotels.