This episode is all about Veterans Day. In the COVID era, many schools are cancelling their traditional Veterans Day assemblies, so I thought I'd put together a little something that parents and teachers could use.
In this episode:
- History of Veterans Day
- How we celebrate Veterans Day
- Difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day
- Why we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th
- Ideas for celebrating Veterans Day
Links & Resources
- Anthem Veterans Memorial
- Arlington National Cemetery
- Celebrate Veterans Day with Your Children
- Military Themed Pumpkin Carving Stencils
This past Memorial Day I did an episode that talked about what Memorial Day was all about, and probably more importantly what it isn’t about. Considering tomorrow, as of the date that this episode will be released, is Veterans Day, I figured I would do a similar episode today. With all of the kids who are doing some sort of remote learning, homeschooling, or some other variation on what we might consider a normal education experience, I thought an episode like this might be good for all those teachers and parents who may not be able to do a Veterans Day assembly like they had done in previous years, and also for those who just want to know more about Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is observed on November 11th each year in the United States. It is a day where we pause to give thanks to everyone who served in the United States military and celebrate the sacrifices they have made for us, and the freedom they fought for.
Originally, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day. Armistice Day was created to celebrate the end of the fighting in World War One. The fighting in that war ended at 11 o’clock on November 11, 1918. In other words, the fighting ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month. Across Europe, the day is still known as Armistice Day, and it’s known as Remembrance Day in Canada. They’re different names for essentially the same thing.
So, you might be wondering, if Armistice Day was created to celebrate the end of World War One, why is it now called Veterans Day, since Veterans have fought in other wars. Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938 20 years after the fighting ended. That’s the speed of the Federal Government for you. A few years later the United States entered World War Two. That war was even more significant in terms of the number of deaths and wounded American troops. World War One had about 117,000 deaths while World War Two had about 405,000 deaths. World War One had about 204,000 wounded, while World War Two had about 671,000 wounded. There was a movement that started in 1945 by a World War Two veteran named Raymond Weeks to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, which started to gain momentum. Eventually in 1954 Congress amended the name of the day to Veterans Day so that the day could recognize veterans from all eras, past, present, and future. Again, the Federal Government is amazingly efficient when it comes to these sorts of things, aren’t they? This time it was only 9 years after that movement started, so it’s progress I suppose.
In 1968 a Uniform Monday Holiday act was put into effect, which made three-day weekends for federal employees on several holidays including Washington’s birthday in February, Memorial Day in May, Labor Day in September, as well as Veterans Day and Columbus Day in October. Yes, both Veterans Day and Columbus Day were celebrated in October. Each of those holidays were to be celebrated on a Monday, which in effect would create a three-day weekend for federal employees and anyone who followed the federal holiday guidelines. The reason for this was to encourage people to travel on their long weekends rather than just getting a random day off in the middle of the week. It actually sort of makes sense, because when people have an extra day off on the weekend they’ll be more likely to take a weekend trip somewhere, which encourages them to spend money on touristy stuff, hotels, entertainment, restaurants, and things like that. So Veterans Day observations were moved to the fourth Monday in October starting in 1968.
So why do we celebrate it on November 11th now?
The reason why is because it was such an unpopular change to the holiday that Congress moved Veterans Day back to November 11th starting in 1978. November 11th, afterall was the date that fighting ended in World War One, so by moving the holiday, it lost some of its historical significance. Moving the holiday back to the 11th continued to recognize veterans as well as the historical significance of the day. Really, the day has two purposes. One to serve as the anniversary of the end of the fighting in World War One, and the second is to celebrate veterans for their service.
Now, while I’m on the topic of the purpose of the holiday, I want to bring up something that I talked about in the Memorial Day episode I did a few months back. I want to reiterate this point again in case you missed that episode. There are several military holidays throughout the year, which honor different groups of people connected to the military, and I don't know if it's patriotism or confusion, or whatever but people have a tendency to thank veterans on all of these military holidays. In particular I'm talking about two holidays. Veterans Day, and Memorial Day.
As I mentioned at the top of the show, Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11th, and is a day to thank military veterans and service members for their service.
Memorial Day on the other hand is celebrated on the last Monday in May. This is a day to honor and remember all of those who died while serving their country.
The reason why I bring up the difference between these two holidays is because when you thank a veteran on Memorial Day, it is looked at as an odd thing to do from the veteran’s perspective. That day isn’t for us. It’s almost like if I were to wish you a Happy Birthday on someone else’s birthday. That would just be weird wouldn’t it? I mean it’s the thought that counts, but I probably could have waited a little while for your actual birthday to wish you a happy birthday. It’s the same idea with Memorial Day. That day is for honoring the people who died in war. Last I checked, I still have a pulse so I don’t fit that criteria. However I, and others like me, do fit the criteria for the veterans who are honored on Veterans Day. Most veterans won’t have a problem with being thanked for their service on Veterans Day. As a matter of fact, most enjoy the celebrations that occur on Veterans Day. With that said though, there are some veterans who don’t like the attention they get on Veterans Day. It may bring up bad memories for them and be hard to deal with, so thank a veteran but if you notice that they are uneasy when you offer your thanks, you may want to back off a bit with that particular veteran. Don’t feel bad about it, just sometimes veterans have done things that they aren’t particularly proud of and holidays like this bring up bad memories. You didn’t do anything wrong or inappropriate by offering your thanks, it’s just not something that particular veteran wants to acknowledge. No big deal, just move on.
On the topic of celebrations and customs, every Veterans Day, there are ceremonies and parades all throughout the country, although I don’t know if it will quite look the same this year. Arlington National Cemetery, where service members from every one of America’s major wars from the Revolutionary War to today’s wars are buried, holds an annual service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Schools across the country hold Veterans Day assemblies, which will probably be less common of an occurrence this year, but hopefully will pick back up next year. Additionally, parades are held in communities throughout the country, in which veterans from all generations as well as members of veteran and other patriotic organizations march. Some parades end with speeches by local veterans.
In addition to the parades and ceremonies, there are other ways you can celebrate Veterans Day. Some people put together care packages for deployed troops, which not only is a good way to show your appreciation, it also can provide some much needed supplies to service members who can’t just run out to the store to pick up a few essentials. Some people visit veterans’ hospitals to brighten the day of the veterans there who may not have family nearby, or at all. For parents and teachers, you can do patriotic crafts with your kids or students. I’ve even seen some pretty cool looking pumpkin carvings with soldiers and American flags that could be cool to try. If you do something like that, be sure to take a photo and tag Drive On Podcast in your social media posts, I want to see what you come up with. Other people will invite a veteran to speak to their community or organization. I’m actually giving a talk on Veterans Day this year to a nearby community, which consists of mostly older veterans but they wanted to get the perspective of a veteran from the post 9/11 era, so I’ll be talking to them about that. If you work in an office you can take a little time out of the day to acknowledge the vets in your office. Maybe it’s something as simple as sending an email out reminding everyone in the office who the veterans are so that everyone can thank them for their service, or bring in some patriotic themed snacks to show your appreciation. Or, if you know of veteran owned businesses in your area give Amazon a rest and go shop with them for a change. Some businesses may even offer special discounts to veterans on Veterans Day as a way to show their appreciation for their service.
I mentioned earlier that Armistice Day was originally celebrating the anniversary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when fighting formally ended in World War One. Traditionally, a pause is given at 11am on Veterans Day to honor and remember those who served with a silent thanks for our freedom.
And if you haven’t heard of this, there is a cool memorial in Anthem Arizona, which is designed to let the sun’s rays pass through in a certain way so that it creates the Great Seal of The United States on the other end of the memorial. This happens at 11am every Veterans Day.
Thanks for listening. Hopefully this episode provided some background on what Veterans Day is all about, and gave you some ideas on how to celebrate the veterans in your life.