Veterans Day is a federal and state holiday in all states except Wisconsin. The federal holiday is observed on November 11 or the weekday closest to November 11 if November 11 falls on a weekend. In most states, it is also observed from weekdays to November 11. Local government, schools and businesses not required to follow closure policies made by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management are free to decide whether to observe Veterans Day as a holiday. Most will remain open. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq remain open on this federal holiday. Veterans Day is a paid holiday for only 19% of American workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, just 11% of private-sector workers get the day off.
History of Veterans Day
The holiday honours all veterans of the United States armed forces. A traditional observation is a moment of silence at 11 AM, remembering those who fought for peace. (Commemorates the cease-fire in the 1918 armistice, which was scheduled for “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”)
The day of recognition for Veterans of the Great War (World War I) on this date was first proclaimed by President Wilson on November 11 1919. In May 1938, November 11 was declared a legal holiday known as ‘Armistice Day. In 1953, a shoe store owner named Al King started a campaign that the day should celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War 1, suggesting it should be renamed ‘All’ Veterans Day.
Al’s idea was taken up by his local Chamber of Commerce and a local congressman, who helped push a bill for a holiday through Congress. President Eisenhower signed it into law, and in May 1954, Congress amended the law and officially replaced ‘Armistice’ with ‘Veterans’. In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act initially applied to Veterans Day, stipulating that the federal holiday should be observed on the fourth Monday of October. However, veterans groups opposed the change, and most states kept their Veterans Day commemorations on November 11. In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law that moved the holiday back to November 11.
How is Veterans Day observed?
An annual Veterans Day parade takes place on 5th Avenue in Manhattan with over 500,000 attendees. Across the country, many restaurants and fast-food chains offer free meals to veterans.
Did you know?
- Veterans Day was first celebrated as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, just one year after the end of World War I. Congress passed legislation in 1926 for the day to become an annual observance. It became known as a national holiday in 1938
- It wasn’t until 1954 that President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
- The official definition of a veteran is someone who served on active duty for more than six months while assigned to a regular U.S. armed services unit.