Today, of course, is Veterans Day, which started out as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day has evolved into also honoring living military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation. A national ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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…”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs is joining with the Library of Congress to offer “Veterans History Countdown” on the VA Web site featuring the oral histories of veterans from every state and U.S. territory.
23.6 million: The number of military veterans in the United States in 2007
1.8 million: The number of female veterans in 2007.
16%: Percentage of Gulf War veterans in 2007 who were women.
7.9 million: Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2007. Thirty-three percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 5 million served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); 2.9 million in World War II (1941-1945); 3 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 6.1 million in peacetime.
5: Number of states with 1 million or more veterans in 2007. These states are California (2.1 million), Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.7 million), New York (1.1 million) and Pennsylvania (1.1 million)