Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11 to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces as well as those who have fallen defending the country.
Since this federal holiday falls on a Saturday this year, many workers and students have the day off on Friday November 10. Whether or not this is the case for you, it’s worth taking a moment to learn about the holiday and the veterans who live among us.
Remember your history
Although World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, fighting between the Allied forces and Germany had already ceased months prior. On the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice went into effect.
Armistice Day was celebrated every year thereafter in the United States until 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day to encompass the honoring of veterans of all American wars.
In 1930, the Veterans Administration (VA) was established to “consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans.” It was renamed in 1989 as the Department of Veterans Affairs, continuing to be known as the VA.
Some key figures
There are 18.5 million veterans living in the United States as of 2016, according to the Census Bureau. Of these, 1.6 million veterans are women.
A large proportion of the veteran population, 9.2 million, are aged 65 and older, while 1.6 million are younger than 35.
The American labor force has 7.2 million veterans ages 18 to 65. Of these, 6.8 million are employed. Male and female veterans’ annual median incomes are both higher than their nonveteran counterparts.
Lifting the veil
Despite veterans having an annual holiday celebrating their heroism, troubling stories have emerged in recent years that paint a grim picture for many veterans in America.
In 2013, CNN reported that on average more than 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
In 2014, the Veterans Health Administration was the subject of numerous investigations after reports of negligent handling of a backlog of veterans seeking medical care by VA hospitals went public. Dozens of veterans are reported to have died awaiting treatment.
Related: When fallen heroes don’t come home
Things to do
There are many ways to celebrate Veterans Day this weekend. Here are some of the biggest events going on around the country on Saturday November 11:
America’s Parade in New York City: 11:15 a.m. The National Veterans Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia: 11 a.m. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s Annual Veterans Day Commemoration in Simi Valley, California: 10 a.m.
This weekend would also be a great time to visit the monuments and memorials devoted to veterans in Washington.
You can also refer to your local news outlet for information on holiday events in your area.