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Every year on November 11, Americans gather together to honor their nation’s veterans by celebrating Veterans Day. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who have lost their lives in combat, Veterans Day celebrates both the living and deceased veterans and their service to our country.

In honor of this special day, we’ve compiled a list of 11 things you probably didn’t know about veterans and this holiday. All in all, be sure to spend this Veterans Day by thanking those who have served to protect our freedom.

How Veteran Status Is Earned

A veteran is a person who has served in the Armed Forces (U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard) in times of war of peace. Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations explains that a veteran is an individual who completed a service for any branch of the Armed Forces as long as they were not dishonorably discharged. According to History.com, 16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war.

Veterans Day Had a Different Name

To commemorate the date when WWI ended (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918), President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in 1919 that a day known as Armistice Day, referencing the armistice signed to end the war, would be celebrated on November 11. On this day, we were to show our gratitude and honor those who served and sacrificed. However, it wasn’t considered a legal holiday until 1938! After WWII, there was public encouragement to honor all veterans – leading President Dwight D. Eisenhower to change the name – signing Veterans Day into law.

The Date of Veterans Day Is Static: November 11

Unlike most holidays, which can occur on different days from year to year, Veterans Day occurs on November 11 every year in the United States, for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph. For several years in the 1970s, it was moved to the fourth Monday of October, (which didn’t go over so well with the public) and President Gerald Ford signed a bill that returned the observance to November 11, and America has been celebrating on that date annually since 1978.

There Are Millions of Veterans Living in the U.S. Today

According to the 2016 Veteran Population Study by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there are currently 20 million veterans living in the United States.

The Female Veteran Population Is Rising

Girl power! Out of the 20 million veterans alive in the country, almost two million (1,882,221) are women – the highest amount since 9/11 (2001). This population is expected to increase at about 18,000 women per year for the next 10 years, leading women to make up over 16% of all living veterans by 2043.

Most Veterans Live in the South and West

According to the same study by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, more than a million veterans are currently living in the states of California, Florida and Texas. The cities where living veterans make up the highest percentage of the population include Killeen, Texas; Clarksville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, North Carolina; Fayetteville, North Carolina and Hampton, Virginia.

Veterans Are More Likely to Vote

According to the 2017 Voting and Registration Report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of veterans who voted in the 2016 presidential election was 14.4 million. This means that 69.6 percent of veterans cast a ballot, compared to the 60.6 percent of non-veterans.

Veterans Are More Likely to Own Businesses

A recent U.S. Small Business Administration study found that veterans were 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Currently, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses, employing over 5.8 million people. According to the same study, the most prominent industries owned by veterans (17 percent) are professional, scientific and technical services.

The Medal of Honor

Currently, 3,460 male veterans have received the Medal of Honor, the highest award given for valor in action against enemy forces. Only one woman has received this honor, Mary Edwards Walker, in 1865.

There Are Currently Three Soldiers Buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Solider

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider, a monument dedicated to U.S. soldiers who died in battle and were never identified, is currently the final resting place for three soldiers who served in WWI, WWII and the Korean War, respectively. Originally, there were four soldiers buried in the monument, the last from the Vietnam War, however with modern DNA testing, he was identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam crypt, an inscription has been added, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

65,000 Veterans Have Recorded Their Personal War Stories

A program by The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center has recorded over 65,000 individual veteran war stories in an attempt to preserve and make accessible for future generations. This collection includes thousands of audio and videotapes, personal memoirs, visual materials and letters from service members dating back to WWI.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, be sure to thank a veteran for their service. In addition, you can donate to charities that benefit veterans and servicemen and women.

No matter how you spend this Veterans Day, remember that we live in the land of the free because of the brave. Thank you to all who have served our country!

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