On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the “recurring anniversary of [November 11, 1918] should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations” and that the president should issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of Armistice Day. By that time, 27 state legislatures had made November 11 a legal holiday. An act approved May 13, 1938 made November 11 a legal Federal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'” In actuality, there are no U.S. national holidays because the states retain the right to designate their own, and the government can only designate holidays for federal employees and for the District of Columbia. In practice, however, states almost always follow the federal lead.
The next development in the story of Veterans Day unfolded in 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which sought to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees–and encourage tourism and travel–by celebrating four national holidays (Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day) on Mondays.
The observation of Veterans Day was set as the fourth Monday in October. The first Veterans Day under the new law was Monday, October 25, 1971; confusion ensued, as many states disapproved of this change, and continued to observe the holiday on its original date. In 1975, after it became evident that the actual date of Veterans Day carried historical and patriotic significance to many Americans, President Gerald R. Ford signed a new law returning the observation of Veterans Day to November 11th beginning in 1978. If November 11 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the federal government observes the holiday on the previous Friday or following Monday, respectively.
In the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American servicemembers who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.