Veterans Day is our annual national holiday on November 11th. Its genesis was the World War I armistice declared at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Originally commemorated as Armistice Day in 1919 by congressional resolution and presidential proclamation, it became Veterans Day in 1954 by federal law enacted by Congress and signed by 34th President Dwight Eisenhower.
This recognition of our military veterans pays tribute to those patriotic men and women, living or deceased, who served our country honorably in the US Armed Forces during war or peace for any length of service and are no longer serving. There are 16.2 million veterans living in the United States.
Veterans Day is a legal federal holiday and official flag display day pursuant to 5 United States Code 6103. Since Veterans Day falls on a Saturday this year, the federal observation date is Friday and all federal government offices are closed. Veterans Day activities take place on both days. State, county and city governments are requested to fly the American flag. Flag handling requirements are found at 4 United States Code 1. The correct spelling is the attributive “Veterans Day” with no apostrophe (i.e. Veterans’ Day and Veteran’s Day are erroneous).
Parades, ceremonies, celebrations and events honoring our veterans are held throughout the country. A ceremonial wreath laying by our President is held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery (also on Memorial Day).
This year, Operation Green Light for Veterans will light up county courthouses across the nation in green from dusk to dawn November 6-12 to let our veterans know they are appreciated and remind them of the federal, state and local resources available to assist them. It is sponsored by the National Association of Counties and National Association of County Veterans Service Officers and supported by a bipartisan US Congress resolution.
“Veterans Day” should not be confused with “Memorial Day” on the last Monday in May memorializing military members who gave their lives in the service of our country or “Armed Forces Day” on the 3rd Saturday in May honoring men and women currently serving in the military. Veterans Day is for those who hung up their uniform, Memorial Day is for those who never made it out of their uniform and Armed Forces Day is for those still serving in their uniform. We recognize three distinct military service categories with three different national observances.
The military sworn service oath is to support, defend and bear true faith and allegiance to “the Constitution of the United States”.Military veterans know it is the affirmation we are one nation under the Constitution and it is the Constitution in which we trust. Fidelity to our secular Constitution was an essential element of their faithful service as it continues to be for all military men and women serving today.
“The US military swears to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We don’t take an oath to a king or a queen, or to a tyrant or a dictator. And we do not take an oath to a wannabe dictator. We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.” – General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America’s top military officer (retirement speech, September 29, 2023)
“Today, we honor generations of patriots who have earned the title of ‘American veteran’ – a badge of courage that unites the finest group of former service members the world has ever known. With their selfless sacrifice, our Armed Forces have forged and defended the very idea of America – a promise of freedom and equality, democracy and justice, possibility and hope. We owe them an incredible debt that can never be repaid.” – US President Joe Biden (November 11, 2022)
Veterans Day is a special time for remembering and respecting those who have rendered honorable military service to the United States of America. These patriotic men and women are the reason Americans continue to have the independence, freedom and democracy we cherish and enjoy today.
Brigadier General, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation