Why We Celebrate Veterans Day: History, Significance, and Events

October 23, 2023

As we near the end of summer and enter the fall season, many families' thoughts turn to Veterans Day. If you wonder, "What is Veterans Day?" you’ll find the answer here. Hundreds upon thousands of men and women across the United States have died during service for their country. Many more are still living with the memory of their time served. Veterans Day is dedicated to remembering those who have served and giving thanks for their sacrifices. Veterans have sacrificed time with their families, their individual freedoms, time out of their lives and—for too many—their very lives. No matter where you stand on politics, no matter if you have a veteran in your family or not, Veterans Day offers an opportunity to honor these heroes.

What is Veterans Day? A Brief History

Is Veterans Day a national holiday? Definitely, and it has a fascinating history.

Veterans Day was formerly known as Armistice Day, which marked the day in 1918 when the Allied Forces and Germany signed a treaty to cease fighting in World War I. The first observance of Armistice Day was in 1926. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill 28 years later in 1954, which presented to Congress a notion that the day should be a national holiday to honor all veterans of all wars, not just World War I. The bill passed.

In 1968, Congress tried to move the date to a Monday at the end of October so that the holiday would create a three-day weekend. However, patriots and veteran groups protested the change and moved to restore the holiday to its original date.

By 1974, it was settled that Veterans Day would take place on the original date in remembrance of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, and would include all those who had fought as part of the United States armed forces. To this day, if you wonder: Is Veterans Day a federal holiday? Yes, it is!

When is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is celebrated every November 11th. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it falls on; it’s always November 11th. This makes it very easy to remember the special holiday every year.

How to Celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th

Many families take the opportunity to travel to honor veterans on Veterans Day. There are so many beautiful places and events where individuals and families can learn more about the sacrifices made and the history of our country. We’ve curated a list of places to get Veterans Day deals, Veterans Day free meals, and see and experience different parts of the U.S.

1. Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia

Regular rows of veterans headstones at Arlington cemetery in Virginia

A moving and beautiful Veterans Day event occurs each year at the Arlington National Cemetery, located in Arlington, VA. Arlington National Cemetery is the most famous cemetery in the U.S. and was established as a national cemetery in 1864. Over 300,000 veterans are buried in its grounds. Just being there fills one with a sense of great sadness but also a sense of pride and gratefulness.

On November 11th, free events are open to the public, including a speech by the President at the Memorial Amphitheater and annual memorial services enacted by military and government organizations.

In addition, each year, the Arlington National Cemetery hosts a Veterans Day poster competition calling for artists to submit their rendition of history, legacy, and meaning related to the annual theme. Posters can be downloaded by anyone for printing.

Nearest Airport: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

2. Honoring America’s Veterans Parade - Phoenix, Arizona

Military veteran with American flag.

If you’re interested in visiting Arizona, don’t miss the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, hosted by Honoring America’s Veterans, an organization focused on recognizing veterans through community events. About 45,000 spectators gather yearly to watch the parade, which begins at 11 a.m.  Each year, there’s a different theme for the parade. In 2023, the theme is “Never Forget, Forever Honor.”

An essay competition is open to Arizona high school students, where they can compete for a $250 prize for themselves and a $150 prize for their teacher. The winner rides in the parade and is announced during the parade.

Nearest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

3. Veterans Day Events - Boston, Massachusetts

hands holding a small American flag

Boston is busy with Veterans Day events in 2023, but the city doesn’t limit the activities to one day. A huge Veterans Day parade marches through the city at noon on November 4th. The West Point Marching Band will be in attendance, as well as the Boston Police Pipes and Drums Corps, the Gaelic Column, and numerous ROTC groups, honorary militias, and veterans organizations.

Enjoy a Veterans Day Cruise to Fort Warren on Georges Island, where you can get a guided tour and partake in kids’ activities. Reserve tickets in advance.

Veterans for Peace will be at Speaker’s Corner from 10 AM to noon, where they will talk about the original meaning of Armistice Day, pass out informational fliers, and ring memorial bells.

The city abounds with Veterans Day deals, too. Veterans can enjoy discounts at Columbia Outlet stores in Wrentham Village and Assembly Row, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, and Staples, to name just a few.

Old Town Trolley Tours, Franklin Park Zoo, Stone Zoo, and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum offer free admission to veterans, immediate families, and active duty personnel.

Nearest Airport: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

4. All Veterans Tribute Week - Emporia, Kansas

dozens of people holding the edges of a very large American flag in Kansas

Emporia is the official founding city of Veterans Day in the U.S., so they mark this important holiday from November 1st through Saturday, November 11th, 2023. You’ll discover a veterans artist exhibit, roundtable discussions, memorial services, and a parade.

The schedule of events includes:

  • Quilts of Gratitude Exhibit on November 10th at the Emporia Public Library
  • Veteran Artists' Opening Reception at the Emporia Arts Center on November 4th
  • Freedom Fest Ride/Walk/Run Event on November 5th, starting at the Veteran’s Memorial
  • Veterans Day Parade on November 11th at 9:30 AM, beginning at Commercial Street
  • And much more!

Nearest Airport: Manhattan Airport (MHK)

5. National Veterans Day - Birmingham, Alabama

young couple at a parade celebrating Veterans day

Birmingham, Alabama, claims to host the first-ever Veterans Day celebration in 1947, organized by Raymond Weeks. Local patriots are proud of their grand National Veterans Day Parade with a marching band, jets, and more, preceded by a National Veterans Award Dinner. The parade starts at 1 PM and runs until 4:30 PM, rain or shine.

At the annual award dinner, tribute is paid to an outstanding veteran who has made the most significant contribution to veterans and veteran organizations nationwide. An award is presented as participants honor the achievements of an individual who deserves special recognition.

Nearest Airport: Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM)

6. Veterans Day Parade - New York City

couple laying on a blanket with an image of the stars and stripes on it

New York City is the home of the country’s largest Veterans Day parade. Celebrities even join in on the annual broadcast coverage of the city’s Veterans Day parade. In 2023, there will be more than 20,000 marchers, over 280 marching units, 25 floats, and over 150 vehicles passing through the streets of downtown New York City. Arrive early and get your spot because this parade is the biggest and one of the city’s most popular events.

Nearest Airport: Laguardia Airport (LGA)

7. National Parks Across the Country - United States

boy next to a bouquet of small American flags

If honoring our country’s veterans feels like it should be more of a natural event, you might want to visit one of the many National Parks. All National Parks offer free admission for everyone on November 11th, 2023. The National Parks rangers and all their team members thank veterans for their service to our country and hope to welcome military families in person.

Travel With Thoughtfulness

Travel to commemorate our heroes for Veterans Day is a great way to travel with thoughtfulness and intent.

If your plans to travel to one of these destinations include air travel, be sure to sign up for The Parking Spot, so you can enjoy the chance to reserve a parking spot ahead of time, alleviating much of the stress of travel. The Parking Spot is grateful for the service and sacrifices of those who have served, and we offer additional savings to veterans and members of the armed forces via The Spot Club™  Reserve a parking spot today.

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