Veterans Day Facts
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
- Veterans Day occurs on November 11 every year in the United States.
- In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
- In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
- Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).
- In Europe, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries it’s common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on November 11.
The military men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life; they are parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and are an important part of their communities. Here are some facts about the veteran population of the United States:
- 1 million living veterans served during at least one war.
- 2 million veterans served in peacetime.
- 2 million veterans are women.
- 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
- 5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War.
- Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 558,000 are still alive.
- 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
- 6 million veterans served in peacetime.
- As of 2014, 2.9 million veterans received compensation for service-connected disabilities.
- As of 2014, 3 states have more than 1 million veterans among their population: California (1.8 million), Florida (1.6 million) and Texas (1.7 million).
- The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.
Anthem Veterans Memorial
Once a year, at exactly 11:11, this monument comes to life.
Every Veteran’s Day, for exactly one minute, this monument can be seen in its full glory. Composed of five pillars, each representing an arm of the U.S. military, the monument’s shadows will align at precisely the right angles to form the great seal of the U.S. This isn’t just any day or hour: it was designed to do this at 11:11 every November 11th, or Veteran’s Day.
Additionally, the brick pavers within the Circle of Honor are inscribed with the names of U.S. servicemen and women, symbolizing the ‘support’ for the Armed Forces. The pavers are red, the pillars are white, and the sky is blue to represent America’s flag. The circle represents an unbreakable border.
How did the engineers manage to calculate the rotational shadows down to the minute? The monument’s chief engineer Jim Martin says that they knew they had to create this with a “fixed azimuth (the horizontal angle from astronomical north to the center of the sun on Nov. 11 at 11:11 a.m. that creates the horizontal illumination of the Great Seal)” and a “fixed altitude angle (the vertical angle for zenith, or horizon, to the center of the sun on Nov. 11 at 11:11 a.m. that creates the vertical illumination of the Great Seal).” Even with the yearly variations, the monument is accurate to within 12 seconds.
The monument was designed by a local resident of Anthem named Renee Palmer-Jones. The pillars are quite high (tallest is 17 feet) and the order of the branches of the armed service were placed in accordance with Department of Defense protocol—United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force and the United States Coast Guard.
Veteran Poppy Story
After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle. The American Legion Family adopted “In Flanders Fields” following the publication of the wartime poem. The poem was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. while serving on the front lines.
On September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion.
Led by the American Legion Auxiliary, each year members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower make a donation to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families with medical and financial needs.
Poppy Day is celebrated in countries around the world. The American Legion brought National Poppy Day® to the United States by asking Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day, as National Poppy Day.
I If You See a Coin on a Veterans Headstone Do Not Touch It!
While visiting some cemeteries you may notice that headstones marking certain graves have coins on them, left by previous visitors to the grave.
These coins have distinct meanings when left on the headstones of those who gave their life while serving in America’s military, and these meanings vary depending on the denomination of coin.
A coin left on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a message to the deceased soldier’s family that someone else has visited the grave to pay respect. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited.
A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together, while a dime means you served with him in some capacity. By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the soldier when he was killed.
According to tradition, the money left at graves in national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries is eventually collected, and the funds are put toward maintaining the cemetery or paying burial costs for indigent veterans.
In the US, this practice became common during the Vietnam war, due to the political divide in the country over the war; leaving a coin was seen as a more practical way to communicate that you had visited the grave than contacting the soldier’s family, which could devolve into an uncomfortable argument over politics relating to the war.
Some Vietnam veterans would leave coins as a “down payment” to buy their fallen comrades a beer or play a hand of cards when they would finally be reunited.
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables