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Posted at 3:05 PM ET, 11/11/2010

What you should know about Veterans Day

By Valerie Strauss

The first thing to know about Veterans Day is that it isn’t Memorial Day.

Many Americans confuse the days because they are similar in intent: Memorial day honors America’s war dead, while Veterans Day honors all American veterans, living and dead, and has a special emphasis on thanking living veterans for their service to the country.

Other things to know:

*There is no apostrophe in Veterans Day.

*Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I hostilities at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 -- which was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It first was named Armistice Day through an act of Congress in 1926, though it didn’t become a national holiday for a dozen more years.

*In 1921, the United States laid to rest the remains of a World War I American soldier -- his name "known but to God" – in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on a hillside overlooking Washington, D.C. It became known as the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" and was meant to symbolize reverence for the American veteran. Today it is known as the "Tomb of the Unknowns."

*Armistice Day became known as Veterans Day in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation making it so in order to honor veterans of all U.S. wars. Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday in October in 1968 by Congress, but that was reversed in 1978 when it became obvious that Americans wanted the holiday celebrated Nov. 11.

*At the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery, at 11 a.m. each Nov. 11, a color guard composed of members of each of the military branches renders honors to America’s war dead. The U.S. president or a representative -- today it was Vice President Joe Biden -- places a wreath at the tomb and a bugler sounds taps.

Here are some facts from the Census Department:

21.9 million
The number of military veterans in the United States in 2009.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey


1.5 million
The number of female veterans in 2009.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey


2.3 million
The number of black veterans in 2009. Additionally, 1.1 million veterans were Hispanic; 258,000 were Asian; 153,000 were American Indian or Alaska Native; 30,000 were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and 17.7 million were non-Hispanic white. (The numbers for blacks, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and non-Hispanic whites cover only those reporting a single race.)
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

9 million
The number of veterans 65 and older in 2009. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.7 million were younger than 35.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

7.6 million
Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2009. Thirty-five percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 4.5 million served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); 2.3 million in World War II (1941-1945); 2.7 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 5.6 million in peacetime only.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

47,000
Number of living veterans in 2009 who served during the Vietnam era and both Gulf War eras and no other period.

Other living veterans in 2009 who served during three wars:

* 78,000 served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam era.

Living veterans in 2009 who served during two wars and no other period:

* 741,000 served during both Gulf War eras.
* 230,000 served during both the Korean War and the Vietnam era.
* 156,000 served during both World War II and the Korean War.

Source: 2009 American Community Survey

3
Number of states with 1 million or more veterans in 2009. These states were California (2 million), Florida (1.6 million) and Texas (1.6 million).
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

26%
Percent of veterans 25 and older with at least a bachelor's degree in 2009. In comparison, 28 percent of the total population have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

92%
Percent of veterans 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher in 2009, compared with 85 percent of the population as a whole.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

$35,402
Annual median income of veterans, in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars, compared with $25,559 for the population as a whole.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey


9.8 million
Number of veterans 18 to 64 in the labor force in 2009.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

5.5 million
Number of veterans with a disability in 2009.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey

3 million
Number of veterans who received compensation for service-connected disabilities as of 2009. Their compensation totaled $35.3 billion.
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs as cited in the Upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2011

$95.6 billion
Total amount of federal government spending for veterans benefits programs in fiscal year 2009. Of this total, $44.7 billion went to compensation and pensions, $43.4 billion for medical programs and the remainder to other programs, such as vocational rehabilitation and education.
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs as cited in the Upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2011

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By Valerie Strauss  | November 11, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Tags:  U.S. veterans, arlington cemetery, arlington national cemetery, armistice day, facts about veterans day, history of veterans day, tomb of the unknown soldier, tomb of the unknowns, veterans day, war veterans  
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