Interesting Veterans Day Facts

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On Veterans Day, Americans honor all living military veterans. (Another holiday, Memorial Day, honors those who died while in military service.) Veterans Day is always observed on November 11th with speeches and parades across the United States.

How Veterans Day Began

When the holiday first began, it had a different name, Armistice Day. Here is how the day has progressed over time:

  • The first Veterans Day was on November 11, 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I.
  • In 1926, Congress passed a resolution that requested that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations to observe the holiday.
  • In 1938, November 11 became a national holiday through a Congressional Act.
  • In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name to Veterans Day in order to honor veterans of all American wars.
  • In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971 but reverted back to November 11th in 1975 by President Ford because of the important historical significance the date held.

Veterans by the Numbers

There were 18.2 million military veterans in the U.S., as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of those:

  • 1.62 million were female
  • 11.8 percent were Black or African American
  • 78.9 percent were non-Hispanic white
  • 6.9 percent were Hispanic
  • 9 million were 65 and older
  • 1.6 million were younger than 35

Veterans by the War

More than 35 percent of all living veterans served during the Vietnam War. In 2017, there were:

  • 614,000 World War II veterans. (1941-1945)
  • 1.47 million veterans of the Korean War. (1950-1953)
  • 6.5 million Vietnam-era veterans. (1964-1975)
  • 7.3 million Gulf War veterans. (August 1990 to present)

Veterans in the Work Force

Slightly more than 9 million veterans were in the civilian labor force in 2017, 76.5 percent million of them were employed. As of 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans, or those who have served since September 2001, was 3.8 percent. The most common occupations for male veterans are management, transportation, and sales, while the most common occupations for female veterans were office or administrative support, health care and management.

Around 18.6 percent of veterans held at least a bachelor's degree compared to 19.9 percent non-veterans, according to the BLS. Another 12.5 percent had an associate degree, 8.9 percent had attained a master's degree, and 3 percent have a professional or doctorate degree.

How to Say Thank You to a Veteran

Wondering how to politely thank a veteran for serving in the armed forces? Try these phrases:

  • "Thank you for your service."
  • "Thank you for stepping up when others took a step back."
  • "Thank you for delaying your personal plans so that you could serve our country." 
  • "Thank you for sacrificing so much, like being away from your friends and family so that you could keep them and the rest of us safe from harm."
  • "Thank you for all you've done and for what you continue to do. We are all safer because of your actions."
  • "Thank you."