Each November 11, the nation pauses to honor the men and women who served in the Armed Forces. But not everyone knows the history and traditions behind this national holiday. Here are a collection of facts to help you understand why we’re celebrating their service today.
Fast Facts: (Census Bureau, 2013)
The Holiday Got a Makeover in the ’50s – We didn’t always celebrate “Veterans Day.” The holiday got its start as “Armisitice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919 as a way to honor the end of The Great War – what we now call World War I. The day marked the first anniversary of the end of the war. Congress voted to make it an annual observance in 1926, and it was upgraded to a national holiday in 1938. But it wasn’t until 1954 that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill changing the day’s name to Veterans Day.
Vets Are Better Voters Than You – A whopping 71% of veterans cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election. Compare that to the regular national turnout of 61% that year. And vets still beat the national average when it comes to midterm elections. 57% of veterans voted in 2010, versus 40% for the nation as a whole.
More Living Vets Served in Vietnam Than Any Other Conflict – 7.6 million Vietnam-era vets are living in the U.S. right now. Another 4.8 million served during the Gulf War, 2.6 million in Korea, and 2.1 million during World War II. There are no living American veterans of World War I. But not all veterans fought in a war: 5.5 living veterans served in peacetime only.
If You Live in Florida, Texas or California, Your Neighbor Might Be a Vet – Those three states each have more than a million people who served in uniform, according to the census bureau.
The Postal Service is the Largest Employer of Veterans – 130,000 vets now work for the Post Office, making up 22% of their workforce.
Celebrity Veterans – Elvis Presley (U.S. Army), Alan Alda (U.S. Army Reserve), Julia Child (Office of Strategic Services), Montel Williams (U.S. Marine Corps), MC Hammer (U.S. Navy), Mel Brooks (U.S. Army, Drew Carey (U.S. Marine Corps Reserve), Steve McQueen (U.S. Marine Corps), Joe Louis (U.S. Army), Bill Cosby (U.S. Navy), Chuck Norris (U.S. Air Force), Tony Bennett (U.S. Army), Kris Kristofferson (U.S. Army), and James Earl Jones (U.S. Army) are among some of the celebrities who have served in the military.