If you are a federal or bank employee, student or teacher, you’re among the lucky few who get a work holiday on November 11. If you are a veteran who doesn’t hold one of these positions, chances are you’ll be working. So if veterans don’t get the day off on Veterans Day, what is it for?

Why do we celebrate Veterans Day?

The ceasefire of World War I happened on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. To honor the veterans of this war and remember those we lost, November 11 (Armistice Day) became a national holiday in 1938, and in 1954 Veterans Day became a day to honor veterans from all wars.

longmont veterans day parade

photo credit: timescall.com

Veterans Day is a mixed bag for veterans in Boulder, depending on when and how they served. I talked to veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to hear different perspectives.

Some vets I talked to were suspicious of the authenticity of a stranger saying “thank you for your service,” and some were appreciative of the acknowledgement. Some veterans were angry that government employees have a day off work while veterans don’t, and some vets didn’t have an opinion on the matter.

Among the Vietnam-era veterans I talked to, I heard a common theme: For veterans of war, the day can be a reminder of friends lost and painful memories. This day isn’t a celebration for everyone.

Of the OEF/OIF (Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom) veterans I spoke with, there was generally some discomfort around hearing an individual “thank you for your service,” although an appreciation for the acknowledgement, and more enthusiasm for free Applebee’s on November 11.

One OEF/OIF veteran said:

“My gratitude for veterans and what they accomplished form our country’s existence, has led to everything we enjoy today. So when I hear someone say ‘thank you,’ a little part of me smiles and says someone knows this recognition is more than just about today but a deeper understanding of what the culmination of all veterans have done for us all.” – Derek J.

runner shakes hands with veteran

photo credit: ktla.com


With such different experiences and views on Veterans Day, how do we thank veterans for their service and honor them earnestly?

  1. Show honest gratitude. If you are grateful for a veteran’s service, say it or show it. If “thank you for your service” doesn’t seem authentic, find another way to show your gratitude.
  2. Ask questions. If you aren’t sure how to thank someone or show support to a veteran, ask. “I want to recognize you on Veterans Day and I’m not sure what you’d be comfortable with . . . can I buy your breakfast/rake leaves/help you move?”
  3. Give back. Don’t have any veterans in your life? Donate time or funding to a trusted organization that helps veterans and their families, like the Wounded Heroes Fund, Fisher House, Give Back Yoga Foundation, Come Back Yoga, and Veterans Expeditions.
  4. Bring a vet to yoga. Boulder studio RA MA Institute offers free yoga to veterans every day of the year. Most other studios also offer discounts to veterans.
  5. Make every day veterans day. Having a day dedicated to honoring veterans can be an important show of respect, but we can always choose to do more. How can you show your appreciation to a veteran in your life year-round?

Veterans Day Local Events