Veterans Day: What you need to know
Veterans Day is one of 10 federally recognized holidays. But if you stopped the proverbial man on the street and asked him to name all the federal holidays, it's likely he'd tick off Christmas and New Year's and the Fourth of July and a few others before he got around to Veterans Day.
That's a shame. Veterans Day is the one day a year set aside to honor military veterans, past and present. And, of course, without Veterans Day, we might not have the freedom to celebrate some of those other holidays.
So what is the history of this holiday?
Veterans Day traces its origins to World War I, when an armistice was reached between the Allied nations and Germany. It went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The following year, Nov. 11 became officially known as Armistice Day, a day set aside to honor those who had died in service to the country.
As part of the annual commemoration, there were parades and such. It also became habit for the country to pause at precisely 11 a.m., briefly ceasing all business in honor of the sacrifices of those World War I heroes.
Fast forward to 1954. The valor of U.S. forces in World War II led to a movement to expand the holiday to honor all soldiers, past and present. And in that year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower did just that, signing legislation that turned Armistice Day into Veterans Day.
Today, Veterans Day will compete for national attention with a quirk of the calendar. At some point today it will be 11:11:11 on 11/11/11.
Brides are rushing to Las Vegas to make it a wedding day to remember. Numerology experts are making note of its palindromic sensibilities. Hollywood is unleashing a horror film, "11-11-11," reinforcing some suspicions that the proliferation of elevens has a dark side.
But you can commemorate the day in a different fashion, if you choose.
You can look past all the "11" hoopla at 11 a.m. today and pause for a moment or two to express gratitude for all U.S. servicemen and women, past and present.
Photo: Stephen Bridges, who served with the Army National Guard in Iraq in 2006-07, salutes as he and his sons watch a Veterans Day parade in South Jacksonville, Ill. Credit: Robert Leistra / Jacksonville Journal-Courier
Video: A Veterans Day video released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.