Daily, we are surrounded by heroes. There are men and women in our neighborhoods, sitting next to us in our churches, coaching our children’s soccer teams, and standing next to us at the gas station, who have made selfless commitments, faced harrowing situations, and borne the weariness of battle. On Veterans Day, we are once again reminded of the ways in which our freedoms and liberties have been preserved by the dedicated service of the men and women in our Armed Forces.
How much do you know about the history and vision behind Veterans Day? Here are five things you may not have known about this federal holiday.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and it’s always on November 11th. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, fighting between the Allied nations and Germany ceased with an armistice. Armistice Day, established in 1919, was set aside to honor veterans of World War I. Decades later, Veterans Service Organizations pushed for Congress to replace Armistice with the word Veterans. It wasn’t until 1954 that Veterans Daybecame a day to honor all Veterans.
When President Woodrow Wilson issued the declaration for the observance, he said the day should “be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
Veterans Day and Memorial Day are similar, but serve different purposes. Memorial Day honors those individuals in our U.S. Armed Forces who died while serving our nation. Veterans Day honors all of those who have served in our Armed Forces honorably during war or peace, either living or deceased.
The first unknown soldier was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1921. Arlington National Cemetery now holds a Veterans Day National Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier each year on Veterans Day. It begins precisely at 11 a.m. Engraved on the tomb are the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier Known but to God.”
Americans often wear poppies on Veterans Day. This vibrant red flower is known for thriving on disturbed soil and symbolically represents those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Although poppies are traditionally associated with Memorial Day, many individuals choose to wear poppies on Veterans Day, too, in honor of those who lost their lives in service.
There are over 89,000 veterans living in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional district and nearly 800,000 veterans living in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our congressional district has one of the highest veterans’ populations in the nation. That’s89,981 unique reasons we, as citizens of the Fourth District, have to observe Veterans Day.
As you go about your day this Veterans Day, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices our service members have made for our nation. Fly an American flag. Shake hands with veterans to say thank you. Participate in local parades to honor the living. Wear poppies to remember the fallen. Talk to your children about how we’re free because of the brave. Read more about the history of Veterans Day on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. Show our veterans that we are grateful to be surrounded by men and women of such courage.
Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District in Congress.