Veteran's Corner

Veterans, Thank You for Your Service

Chamber Veterans Honors Breakfast.jpg (Photos: Donna Reuss)

By Donna Reuss

Alexandria, VA – Veterans Day. The day designated to honor and celebrate the courage and sacrifice of the more than 19 million men and women who have served in the US military. Veterans make up 8.8% of Alexandria’s population. A MilitaryTimes assessment (September 10, 2018) ranked Alexandria as the #1 best place in the country among medium-sized cities surveyed for veterans to live. Arlington came in second.

With so much veteran presence in our area, you might think we know all about the holiday. But, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), most Americans confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Some Americans don’t know why we commemorate veterans on November 11 each year. So, here is a little history about the holiday.

First things first, the official name of the holiday is “Veterans Day.” No apostrophe. According to the VA, Veterans Day is a special day for honoring our veterans, not a day that belongs to veterans. (An apostrophe signifies possession, for those who didn’t do well in English grammar class!)

Next, Veterans Day honors those who have served honorably in war or peacetime. Memorial Day pays respects to service members who died in service to their country or from injuries incurred during battle. While deceased veterans are also remembered, Veterans Day focuses on our living veterans.

Alexandria WWI Monument.jpg

That said, Armistice Day, as Veterans Day was initially known, was not about veterans. It was first observed on November 11, 1919, to commemorate the first anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918.

In 1926, Congress called for an annual official observance of the anniversary. It became a federal holiday when legislation declared November 11 as “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” As such, the new legal holiday honored the veterans of World War I.

The new holiday was not without its detractors. After World War II showed that the “war to end all wars” didn’t, a small group of Americans, led by Francis Carr Stifler of the American Bible Society, proposed that Armistice Day be renamed “Mayflower Day” to commemorate the Mayflower Compact, signed on November 11, 1620, which they saw as the cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence. The idea did not catch on.

By the 1950s, millions of Americans had served in World War II and the Korean War. To be more inclusive and to honor this younger generation of veterans, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress amended the Act of 1938 to change “Armistice” to “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law on June 1, 1954.

Speaking with veterans at a recognition ceremony

Then, under the Uniform Holiday Monday Act of 1968, which established federal three-day weekends around four national holidays, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. The first Veterans Day under the new law was October 25, 1971. Many states disagreed with this decision, however, and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date. Very confusing!

Finally, to honor the historical and patriotic significance of the day, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 9497 on September 20, 1975, returning the annual observance of Veterans Day to November 11 beginning in 1978.

While Veterans Day focuses primarily on living veterans, we, of course, also honor those who died fighting for our country. An article in the November 2020 Zebra highlighted various memorials, monuments, and parks around Alexandria that commemorate the dead of various wars, including the WWI monument erected by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 609 and the citizens of Alexandria and dedicated on November 11, 1940.

In February this year, VFW Post 609 kicked off a veterans service organization campaign with the Office of Historic Alexandria and VA National Cemetery Administration to add plaques to the WWI monument to also honor Alexandrians who died fighting in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to donate to this campaign.

We are losing our veterans at an accelerating rate. The US veteran population dropped from approximately 27.5 million in 1990 to 16.2 million in 2022. The number who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam fell nearly by half since 2010. Gulf War-era veterans now make up the largest share of our current veteran population.

Veterans Day Lunch with Charlie Euripides at Royal Restaurant

These veterans and their families, friends, and neighbors are a part of our lives. Take time to talk with them, ask about their service, and thank them and acknowledge their sacrifice while they are still around, not just on Veterans Day but all year long.

If you are a veteran, a veteran’s family member, or know a veteran who needs help, go to Virginia Board Veterans Services at;; contact American Legion Post 24 Veteran Service Officer at [email protected]; or check out the Resources List on the Post 24 website: For crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, dial 988 and Press 1, or text 838255 for the Veterans Crisis Line.

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