The first Veterans Day was observed on Nov. 11, 1919. First introduced by President Woodrow Wilson and originally called Armistice Day, it was a time meant to commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War I. President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day in 1954 to include all veterans, not only those who served in the first World War. Since its inception, the U.S. has continued to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 every year.

A World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks first came up with the idea to change the name and nature of Veterans Day to involve all servicemembers and their families. Weeks led a celebration of the first official Veterans Day in Alabama, and continued this tradition each year until his death in 1985.

There are two days of the year during which the Arlington National Cemetery holds a memorial service, Veterans Day being one of them (Memorial Day is the other). While similar in that they’re both days meant to honor the military, the key difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is that the former honors both living and fallen veterans, whereas the latter is specifically for soldiers who have died.

Ideas for celebrating Veterans Day

How you choose to commemorate Veterans Day is up to you, but here are a few ideas to help get you started:

Adopt a military family

Many military families who have loved ones in the armed forces sometimes lack the resources to properly take care of themselves. This can be especially problematic for families with a deployed parent, limited income, or severely injured veterans. The Soldiers’ Angels charity foundation hosts an Adopt a Family program so you can offer support to military families in need. This can include gifts for children under 18 years of age and grocery gift cards.

Participate in the two-minute moment of silence

Every Veterans Day, there’s a special time set aside for observing the two-minute moment of silence in honor of servicemembers and their families. To ensure it takes place at the same time for everyone across the U.S., the exact time varies depending on your time zone. Here’s what time it begins in each region:

  • 3:11 PM Atlantic Standard Time.
  • 2:11 PM Eastern Standard Time.
  • 1:11 PM Central Standard Time.
  • 12:11 PM Mountain Standard Time.
  • 11:11 AM Pacific Standard Time.
  • 10:11 AM Alaska Standard Time.
  • 9:11 AM Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time.

Visit a Veteran Memorial or Cemetery

We mentioned that Arlington National Cemetery holds a commemoration on Veterans Day that’s open to the public. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t visit other veteran memorials or cemeteries to pay your respects in your own way. While this might seem better suited to Memorial Day, there’s no reason you can’t show appreciation for both living and fallen veterans in a similar fashion. You can leave a small token on a gravestone if you like, or you can simply pay your respects for a few moments.

Participate in our Veterans Day social media campaign

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Join us in creating a virtual Veterans Honor Wall by honoring and thanking those who have served and played an active role in protecting our great country. Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Print out the image.
  2. Write in the name of a veteran you want to honor.
  3. Share it on your feed.
  4. Don’t forget to share the image with us by tagging AFBA and using #AFBAHonorsVeterans.

You can also comment below with your veteran’s name, the branch of service, and an image if available. Use hashtags such as #AFBAHonorsVeterans, #VeteransDay and #VeteransDay2022.