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Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

There was a good reason for celebrating Armistice Day on November 11. It’s the day that the Armistice Agreement was signed by Allied Forces and Germany. It was intended to honor those who had died in World War I.

Alabama played an important part in the way we celebrate Veterans Day today. In 1945, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Alabama, suggested that all veterans should be honored on November 11th, not just the ones who had lost their lives in World War I.

Weeks was given the Presidential Citizenship Medal from Ronald Reagan in 1982. He then led the celebration from 1947 until he died in 1985. In 1954 the National Veterans Award was created, also in Alabama.

Veterans Day is both a state and federal holiday in the United States. Every year on Veterans Day a ceremony is held in Arlington Cemetery to honor all who have died in war. The President or other high-ranking government official lays a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

While Memorial Day honors American military who have lost their lives in the service of their country, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead. However, it especially pays tribute to living veterans who have served our country both during war or in peacetime.

Currently, there are about 18.2 million living veterans who have served in at least one war. Seven million of them served during the Vietnam War. Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, almost 500,000 of them were still alive as of 2018. Some of these vets are dealing with long term problems that have designated them as disabled.

Some celebrities who were or are veterans include Steve McQueen, Ice-T, Morgan Freeman, Chuck Norris, Mr. T, Johnny Cash, and, of course, Elvis. But also included are men like Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), Willie Nelson, and Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers).

Whatever you choose to do to celebrate Veterans Day, take the time to think about the sacrifices veterans have made and continue to make. They have served and continue to serve…the land of the free because of the brave. And thank a vet.

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