Veterans Day is a national holiday in the United States celebrated on November 11th, dedicated to honoring veterans and active military members.
Its origin began in 1918, marking the end of the first World War, and was quickly adopted by countries around the world as Armistice Day, which later became a federal holiday in 1938.
However, in the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, veteran organizations successfully urged Congress to amend the 1938 act by swapping “Armistice” with “Veterans.” This change was approved in 1954, allowing American veterans of all wars to be honored.
Today, ceremonies like the official wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, parades, and other celebrations are held in cities around the country.
It has become a day of recognition, respect, and gratitude for those who have and continue to risk their lives in pursuit of the protection and safety of others.
Though it’s important to celebrate the courage and strength of these fearless people, it’s also an opportunity for us to listen and learn from this community.
Veterans Day should not be the only day we celebrate veterans, rather, it should be a jumping-off point for us to continue to fight and advocate for these folks at home — 365 days of the year.
We’ve gathered a list of meaningful ways to do that:
Ideas and Activities To Celebrate Veterans Day:
Say thank you.
We, as civilians, may not fully ever understand the scope of just how much veterans have sacrificed for our continued safety at home and abroad.
Whether or not it’s Veterans Day, going out of your way to genuinely thank a person in uniform or someone you know who is a part of the veteran community is a natural and meaningful way to show your appreciation for what they’ve done.
Gratitude can take many forms, though.
If you know a veteran, try writing a letter, postcard, or email that recognizes them on Veterans Day — and encourage others to do the same! Organizations like Soldiers’ Angels can help get you started.
Go beyond saying ‘Thank you.’
While approaching military folks with gratitude and respect is an important and special act, there are other ways to express those feelings.
Instead of simply thanking a veteran for their service, go a step further and find an appropriate moment to sit down and genuinely ask them what world-changing thing they're doing right now.
Getting curious about a veteran’s story, work, and ambitions is a powerful way of letting them know that their commitment to service is continuously evolving.
Read good news about veterans.
At Good Good Good, we love to turn our attention to the progress and systemic change happening within our communities — and the veteran community is no exception.
Celebrate and share the good news happening within the veteran community:
- 🏠 Veteran homelessness decreased by nearly 50% between 2009 and 2018
- These combat diving veterans are now using their skills to restore ocean health
- 🏥 Thanks to years of advocacy from John Stewart and veteran activists, the PACT Act passed Congress
Support a veteran environmental organization.
Veterans continuously use their skills and knowledge to give back to the environment and fight climate change through restoration projects.
Organizations like Force Blue are providing combat diving veterans with a way to leverage their specialized skills for coral reef conservation. You can support Force Blue’s ability to continue its efforts by learning more about the amazing work the organization is doing or making a donation.
Support a veteran disaster response organization.
As we continue to see an increase in natural disasters (such as hurricanes and wildfires), organizations like Team Rubicon — a veteran-led humanitarian organization — are deploying military vets and first responders to support global communities before, during, and after disasters and crises.
Donating to veteran-led disaster response organizations allows trained ex-military members to step in and address the most pressing issues of our day.
Support a veteran arts organization.
According to the Department of Defense, one in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Art is proven to be an effective solution to addressing mental health.
Organizations like CreatiVets and The Veterans Art Project use different art forms — including songwriting, visual arts, music, and creative writing — to help veterans and their families cope with service-related trauma through self-expression.
Supporting these and similar arts organizations that center the veteran community allows them to transform their unique stories and struggles into inspiring and impactful art that can help encourage continued healing.
Call your elected officials.
Take a moment and call your elected representatives to advocate for those who have, are, and will be protecting our country. These folks are often at the whims of our elected officials and get left behind when it comes to providing essential services such as mental health support and expanded healthcare benefits.
(We created the ultimate guide on how to contact your elected representatives to help you get started!)
Thanks to diligent efforts made by veteran groups and advocates (including comedian Jon Stewart), legislation like The Pact Act, which expands veteran benefits, was made possible. Be a part of future advocacy efforts by calling your local elected leaders.
Enjoy time in a national park.
There’s much to be said about the healing and transformative power of the outdoors. A beautifully unique way to commemorate Veterans Day is by enjoying one of the more than 420 national parks that the U.S. has to offer.
Each year the National Park Service announces several “fee-free days” to ensure that parks remain accessible to everyone. Veterans Day is one of those days.
Use this day to encourage those in and out of the military to step out and enjoy the beautifully vast and diverse land we call home. It can serve as a grounding reminder of the lengths those in service take to preserve and protect spaces, like our national parks, for generations to come.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What was Veterans Day originally called?
Although we know November 11th as Veterans Day, it was originally called Armistice Day. Its origins can be traced to World War I and the armistice agreement that ended it on November 11, 1918. The following year, many countries, including the U.S., adopted it as a day of remembrance.
What’s the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?
While there is some overlap between Veterans and Memorial Day, there is a distinction. Memorial Day (observed on the last Monday of May) honors those who died in military service, Veterans Day (which is celebrated on November 11th) recognizes armed service members who are living and deceased.
What is the theme for Veterans Day in 2023?
Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs invites artists to help design an official poster for Veterans Day. This year, the theme is “Service.” “[Service] reflects the military value and tradition of answering the call to duty,” the VA shared on its site. The poster is distributed to VA facilities and military installations.