Veterans Day in the USA

All of America becomes silent for a moment at 11 am on November 11th. On this day, all veterans who serve or have served their country are honored. We explain everything about the history and traditions of Veterans Day in the USA.

The history of Veterans Day

Veterans Day in America dates back to the end of World War I. "At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918," the Allies and Germany signed an armistice that put an end to the fighting. Officially, however, the end of the war was not sealed until the following year, with the Treaty of Versailles on June 28th, 1919.

On June 28th, 1919, US President Woodrow Wilson announced that the day of the armistice should be celebrated "with solemn pride and reflection upon the heroes of the war who have fallen fighting for their country and for victory." To honor America's war veterans, Wilson planned that parades and public meetings should be held and that businesses would briefly pause their operations at 11 o'clock.

The speech of Woodrow Wilson

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will 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.”

In 1926, the Congress of the United States declared that Armistice Day should be observed each year with prayers and thanksgiving. Finally, on May 13th, 1938, a law was passed making November 11th an official US holiday.

Veterans in the USA

What name did Veterans Day have in the past?

American Veterans Day was formerly known as Armistice Day. The name referred to the laying down of arms in World War I at 11 am on November 11th, 1918. Originally, the day was intended to honor World War I veterans, but just a few years later, thousands of US soldiers were once again fighting in World War II.

Various veterans' organizations, therefore, urged Congress in 1954 to replace the word "armistice" with "veterans." On June 1st, 1954, the change was approved. Since then, November 11th has served to thank all military personnel who have ever served the country.

Is Veterans Day an official holiday in the USA?

Veterans Day falls annually on November 11th and is a public holiday. State government offices are closed on this day. Private businesses, stores, and schools are not required to close but may choose to do so. In some cases, public transportation also follows a holiday schedule.

When Veterans Day is on a weekday, many communities hold their celebrations on the weekend closest to November 11th.

American patriots

Traditions on Veterans Day in the USA

The phrase "Thank you for your service." has a very special, emotional meaning for Americans because the country uses these words to thank its veterans for their dedication.

Parades and other commemorative events are held throughout the United States, usually coordinated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Traditionally, the events focus on veterans who are still alive.

During a moment of silence at 11 am, the country remembers its fallen soldiers. However, the moment of silence is also directed at any military personnel who are currently deployed.

In addition, Americans show their gratitude through the following gestures:

  • Laying of a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, by the incumbent US President
  • Laying of wreaths at the memorials of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War
  • the American flag hangs at half mast
  • Religious services honoring veterans, soldiers, and their families
  • Free or reduced-price meals at many restaurants and cafes for veterans and active military members
  • Discounts at many stores, hotels, and recreational facilities (e.g., gyms, zoos) for veterans and active military members
  • Free entrance to national parks of the National Park Service for everyone

More information on the USA

Would you like to learn more about the US holidays that celebrate America's heroes? Then don't miss our articles on Memorial Day, President's Day, and Independence Day!

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!