11 Things to Remember This Veterans Day

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mariusz_prusaczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Whether or not you know someone who served in the military or you served yourself, Veterans Day is a holiday worth observing. There are around 18 million veterans living in the U.S.—here are some things to remember when honoring them on November 11.

1. DON'T CONFUSE IT WITH MEMORIAL DAY.

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Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and Veterans Day (November 11) both honor the men and women who served in our nation's military, but there's a major difference between the holidays. While Memorial Day is reserved for those who died while serving their country, Veterans Day is a time to recognize all veterans, both the dead and the living.

2. IT USED TO HAVE A DIFFERENT NAME.

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On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued an Armistice Day proclamation—a reference to the agreement made between the Allies and Germany to end World War I a year earlier. Congress would officially declare Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938 (most states already had their own observances). In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that officially changed the name to Veterans Day, making the holiday more inclusive of veterans who had served after and prior to the First World War.

3. THE DATE HOLDS HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE.

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Though the date changed a few times throughout the 20th century, today Veterans Day falls on November 11 of each year. The date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the end of World War I, which occurred "at the 11th hour of 11th day of the 11th month."

4. FEWER THAN HALF A MILLION WORLD WAR II VETERANS ARE ALIVE TODAY.

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World War II ended more than 70 years ago, but many of the veterans who fought in the war are still around to thank. According to the most recent estimates, around 450,000 of the 16 million people who fought in the Second World War are alive in 2019. But The National WWII Museum estimates that around 350 pass away each day, which is why the museum is dedicated to preserving World War II history through first-hand, oral accounts.

5. NOT EVERY VETERAN FOUGHT IN A WAR.

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Members of the military don't need to fight overseas to serve their country. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of the veterans living in America today only served during peacetime. Military missions that don't involve war may include protecting U.S. embassies, providing natural disaster relief, and bringing medical assistance to impoverished communities.

6. THESE THREE STATES HAVE HUGE VETERAN POPULATIONS.

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There are three U.S. states whose veteran populations exceed 1 million: California with 1.56 million, Texas with 1.46 million, and Florida with 1.44 million. And the states with the highest percentage of veterans are Alaska, Virginia, Montana, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Maine, all with around 10 percent of the adult population being veterans. These numbers still make up just a fraction of the country's 18.2 million veterans, who can be found in all parts of the U.S.

7. VETERANS ARE BETTER EDUCATED.

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People who served in the military tend to have completed higher levels of education than those who have not enlisted. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37.1 percent of U.S. veterans have completed some college or have an associate's degree and 27.7 percent have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

8. IT'S CELEBRATED IN OTHER COUNTRIES (KIND OF).

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Several countries have their own holidays recognizing veterans and those who have died in wars that fall on or around November 11. But the important day goes by a different name outside the U.S.: In Canada, it's Remembrance Day, and many in the UK observe both Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day.

9. VETERANS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE HOMELESS.

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Despite only accounting for 7 percent of the general population, veterans make up roughly 11 percent of the adult homeless population. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports there are more than 40,000 veterans living without homes on any given night in the U.S. Compared with the total veteran population, younger veterans are disproportionately likely to be homeless, though there are people who have served in a range of wars—including World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Afghanistan and Iraq—living on the streets, with Vietnam War-era veterans accounting for nearly half the total, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

10. MANY LEAVE THE ARMED FORCES WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

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Mental illness crops up in veterans at an alarmingly high rate. According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research in 2008, close to one-fifth of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan came home with either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. These issues can have many potential causes, but in a significant portion of veterans head injury may have been a key factor. About 7 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets have a mental health condition and also reported sustaining a traumatic brain injury.

11. YOU CAN SUPPORT VETERANS ANY TIME OF YEAR.

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From picking up the tab for a veteran at your local diner or driving them to a doctor's appointment, there are many small ways to show your gratitude to the veterans in your community. There are also plenty of charitable organizations dedicated to supporting veterans around the country. Here is a list of some of the veterans' groups looking for donations and volunteers.

7 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd at the March On Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd at the March On Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
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On August 28, 1963, under a sweltering sun, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to participate in an event formally known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. From start to finish, it was a passionate plea for civil rights reform, and one speech in particular captured the ethos of the moment. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 17-minute “I Have a Dream” address—which was broadcast in real time by TV networks and radio stations—was an oratorical masterpiece. Here are some facts about the inspired remarks that changed King's life, his movement, and the nation at large.

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the tenth orator to take the podium that day.

Organizers hoped the March would draw a crowd of about 100,000 people; more than twice as many showed up. There at the Lincoln Memorial, 10 civil rights activists were scheduled to give speeches—to be punctuated by hymns, prayers, pledges, benedictions, and choir performances.

King was the lineup’s tenth and final speaker. The list of orators also included labor icon A. Philip Randolph and 23-year-old John Lewis, who was then the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (He’s now a U.S. congressman representing Georgia’s fifth district.)

2. Nelson Rockefeller inspired part of the "I Have A Dream" speech.

For years, Clarence B. Jones was Dr. King’s personal attorney, a trusted advisor, and one of his speechwriters. He also became a frequent intermediary between King and Stanley Levison, a progressive white lawyer who had drawn FBI scrutiny. In mid-August 1963, King asked Jones and Levison to prepare a draft of his upcoming March on Washington address.

“A conversation that I’d had [four months earlier] with then-New York governor Nelson Rockefeller inspired an opening analogy: African Americans marching to Washington to redeem a promissory note or a check for justice,” Jones recalled in 2011. “From there, a proposed draft took shape.”

3. The phrase “I have a dream” wasn’t in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s prepared speech.

Rev. Martin Luther King attends a prayer pilgrimage for freedom May 17, 1957 in Washington
Martin Luther King, Jr. attends a prayer pilgrimage for freedom May 17, 1957 in Washington.
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On the eve of his big speech, King solicited last-minute input from union organizers, religious leaders, and other activists in the lobby of Washington, D.C.’s Willard Hotel. But when he finally faced the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, the reverend went off-book. At first King more or less stuck to his notes, reciting the final written version of his address.

Then a voice rang out behind him. Seated nearby was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who yelled, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin!” Earlier in his career, King had spoken at length about his “dreams” of racial harmony. By mid-1963, he’d used the phrase “I have a dream” so often that confidants worried it was making him sound repetitive.

Jackson clearly didn't agree. At her urging, King put down his notes and delivered the words that solidified his legacy:

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream ... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

King's friends were stunned. None of these lines had made it into the printed statement King brought to the podium. “In front of all those people, cameras, and microphones, Martin winged it,” Jones would later say. “But then, no one I’ve ever met could improvise better.”

4. Sidney Poitier heard the "I Have A Dream" speech in person.

American actor Sidney Poitier, circa 1970
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Sidney Poitier, who was born in the Bahamas on February 20, 1927, broke Hollywood's glass ceiling at the 1964 Academy Awards when he became the first African American to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Lilies of the Field (and the only one until Denzel Washington won for Training Day nearly 40 years later). Poitier, a firm believer in civil rights, attended the ’63 March on Washington along with such other movie stars as Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, and Paul Newman.

5. The "I Have A Dream" speech caught the FBI’s attention.

The FBI had had been wary of King since the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was perturbed by the reverend’s association with Stanley Levison, who’d been a financial manager for the Communist party in America. King's “I Have a Dream” speech only worsened the FBI’s outlook on the civil rights leader.

In a memo written just two days after the speech, domestic intelligence chief William Sullivan said, “We must mark [King] now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Before the year was out, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy gave the FBI permission to wiretap King’s telephone conversations.

6. In 1999, scholars named "I Have a Dream" the best American speech of the 20th century.

All these years later, “I Have a Dream” remains an international rallying cry for peace. (Signs bearing that timeless message appeared at the Tiananmen Square protests). When communications professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M used input from 137 scholars to create a list of the 100 greatest American speeches given in the 20th century, King’s magnum opus claimed the number one spot—beating out the first inaugural addresses of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, among others.

7. A basketball Hall of Famer owns the original copy of the "I Have a Dream" speech.

George Raveling, an African-American athlete and D.C. native, played college hoops for the Villanova Wildcats from 1956 through 1960. Three years after his graduation, he attended the March on Washington. He and a friend volunteered to join the event’s security detail, which is how Raveling ended up standing just a few yards away from Martin Luther King Jr. during his “I Have a Dream” address. Once the speech ended, Raveling approached the podium and noticed that the three-page script was in the Reverend’s hand. “Dr. King, can I have that copy?,” he asked. Raveling's request was granted.

Raveling went on to coach the Washington State Cougars, Iowa Hawkeyes, and University of Southern California Trojans. In 2015, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Although a collector once offered him $3 million for Dr. King’s famous document, Raveling’s refused to part with it.

What Happened to the Physical Copy of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech?

AFP, Getty Images
AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

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