Members of the Tuskegee Airmen (Courtesy of the Smithsonian)
Members of the Tuskegee Airmen (Courtesy of the Smithsonian)

Some may consider next Monday, Nov. 12, as an unavoidable nuisance with America’s banks closed, postal service interrupted and all local, state and national officials temporarily shutting their doors — all marking the nation’s annual observance of Veterans Day (observed the Monday closest to Nov. 11).

Veterans Day’s origins hearkens back to Nov. 11, 1919 — the first anniversary of the end of World War I then referred to as “Armistice Day.” Later, in 1926, Congress passed a resolution marking the date as an annual observance before it became a national holiday beginning in 1938. One important distinction and unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans — alive or dead — while expressing particular gratitude to living veterans who have served their country honorably during either war or in times of peace.

Did you know?

President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.

The celebration of Veterans Day moved to the fourth Monday in October in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, becoming effective in 1971. Then, in 1975, President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.

Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near November 11: Canada has Remembrance Day; Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).

In Europe, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries it’s common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.

More About U.S. Veterans

Men and women in the military who serve and protect the country hail from all walks of life — parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and coworkers — all being an important part of their respective communities. Facts about the veteran population of the U.S. include:

16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war.
5.2 million veterans served in peacetime.
2 million veterans are women.
7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
5.5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War.
Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 558,000 remain alive.
2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
6 million veterans served in peacetime.
As of 2014, 2.9 million veterans received compensation for service-connected disabilities.
As of 2014, 3 states have more than 1 million veterans among their population: California (1.8 million), Florida (1.6 million) and Texas (1.7 million).
The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.

Lecture to Feature Contributions of Blacks in WWII

On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Alexandria Black History Museum will present “Come Out Fighting: How the Original Black Panthers and Other African Americans Helped to Defeat the Axis and Win World War II.

The illustrated presentation by author, lecturer and historian of the African diaspora, C.R. Gibbs, will describe the inspiring story of the nation’s first African-American armored unit. Organized during the second World War, the unit rose above racism at home and skepticism on the battlefield to become one of the most hard-hitting, courageous outfits in the U.S. Army. They risked their lives and fought for the good they believed would once peace returned. Gibbs will also provide a comprehensive view of several untold stories of other Black men and women who fought in World War II.

C.R. Gibbs, the author/co-author of six books and a respected lecturer on a variety of historical topics, has worked with Smithsonian Institution museums and is a D.C. Humanities Council scholar.

For information call 703-746-4994. The lecture, free to the public, begins at 11 a.m. at the Lyceum, 201 S. Washington Street, Alexandria.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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