On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I fighting ceased. The war, which had raged on throughout Europe for a little more than four years, claimed the lives of more than nine million combatants and seven million civilians. The Allies squared off against the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the conflict involved nations from all over the world.
World War II was even more devastating.
It is in their honor - and in the name of all the servicemen and women who continue to risk their lives in service of their country - that Veterans Day was established. It is celebrated each year on November 11. During the holiday, people pause for two minutes at 11 a.m. to remember the many soldiers who lost their lives. Many people also wear red poppies, a flower that has become synonymous with the holiday. In addition to the moments of silence and the wearing of poppies, individuals can commemorate Veterans Day in the following ways.
- Treat a veteran. Take a soldier out for a meal or pay the restaurant bill anonymously. If a family member or friend is presently in the military or retired from the service, learn his or her interests and plan a special, stress-free day.
- Share a servicemember's story. Speak with a service person who served in World War II about his or her military service, and chronicle this person's story into a living history. Encourage children to take part in learning about this person's history and experiences.
- Volunteer at a veteran's association. Find a department of veterans affairs and see what you can do to assist veterans. If you have specialized skills, offer your services free of charge to former soldiers.
- Show your patriotism. Be proud of your heritage and the rich history of the country. Fly the flag, participate in the voting process and teach children about the country's founding principles and how much the nation has evolved. Read up on current events and take an interest in domestic and foreign affairs.
- Establish your own traditions. Create your own way to celebrate Veterans Day. This may include a day of contemplation, spending time with family, visiting historical sites, or watching documentaries on the life-changing wars that transformed the world.