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Veterans Day

Why Veterans Day?

On November 11, 1918, an agreement ended the fighting of World War I.  The agreement was called an "armistice."  The world hoped that World War I was the war that would end all wars, so November 11 soon became known as "Armistice Day."  On that day, many nations remembered their soldiers who fought in World War I.

Sadly, World War II began less than 20 years after, and even that wasn't the end of war.  So in 1954, to make November 11 a holiday to remember all of the brave soldiers who help to preserve freedom for Americans and people all over the world, America's Armistice Day was renamed "Veterans Day."

Veterans and Coins

One way we Americans honor our veterans is through coins. We make everyday coins, special coins, and medals to help us remember veterans and their organizations. Let's look at some!

For Teachers, written on blackboard, linked.

Teachers, click the blackboard for some activity ideas for honoring American veterans in your classroom.

Circulating Coins

Circulating coins are the coins we use every day.  They are made especially to be used when people buy and sell goods and services.  Our circulating coins show pictures of past presidents of the United States, and some of them, like George Washington, were war heroes.

But here are some circulating coins that relate directly to veterans:

  • 1975–1976 Bicentennial Quarter—Not only does George Washington's likeness show on the front, but a Revolutionary War soldier plays a drum on the back.
Image shows the 1975 and 1976 bicentennial quarter
  • New Jersey Quarter—New Jersey's design is based on a famous painting of General George Washington crossing the Delaware into New Jersey to launch a surprise attack during the Revolutionary War.
Image shows New Jersey quarter
  • Massachusetts Quarter—One of the major elements in this design is the figure of a Minuteman.  Minutemen were colonists who pledged to be ready on a minute's notice in case the British attacked.
Image shows Massachusetts quarter

The designs on other quarters also relate to the Revolution, though you might not be able to tell just by looking at them.  If you don't know the answers to the questions below, follow the links to their pages in "The Coins Are Coming":

Commemorative Coins

Commemorative coins are special coins.  They are marked with values like ordinary coins, but their buyers don't usually spend them.  One reason is that they cost more than their "face" (marked) value.  They are made to help people remember a special person, place, or event.

Here are some commemorative coins that honor veterans:

  • 1993 World War II clad half dollar, silver dollar, and gold five-dollar coin—Issued on the 50th anniversary of U.S. taking part in World War II.  All the coins are dated 1991–1995 because we were involved from 1941 to 1945.
Image shows 1993 World War II dollar
  • 1994 US Prisoners of War silver dollar—To honor American prisoners of war, the front shows a flying eagle surrounded by barbed wire and the words "Liberty," "Freedom," and "In God We Trust."  A broken chain hangs from the eagle's leg.  The back shows the National Prisoner of War Museum.
Image shows 1994 U.S. Prisoners of War silver dollar
  • 1994 Vietnam War Veterans Memorial silver dollar—The front shows military decorations that awarded to soldiers for great bravery.  The back shows a hand touching the Vietnam Memorial, which has the names of thousands of soldiers inscribed on it.
Image shows 1994 Vietnam War Veterans Memorial silver dollar
  • 1994 Women Veterans silver dollar—The front shows five women in uniform and the names of the services they stand for: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.  The back shows the Women in Military Service Memorial.
Image shows 1994 Women Veterans dollar.
  • 1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots silver dollar—This coin was created to honor the African-American soldiers who fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War.
Image shows 1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots silver dollar
  • 2002 U.S. Military Academy Bicentennial silver dollar—Many generals and other veterans went to school at the United States Military Academy, most commonly known simply as "West Point."  Read about the coin on the 2002 Commemorative Coins page and take the West Point Quiz.
2002 U.S. Military Academy Bicentennial Commemorative Coin
  • 2005 United States Marine Corps 230th Anniversary silver dollar—Issued in 2005 to commemorate the 230th anniversary of the Corps.  The front shows the Marine Corps War Memorial and the back shows the Marine Corps emblem above its motto, "semper fidelis."  This coin was the Coin of the Month for July 2005.  Of course, this coin is also covered on the 2005 Commemorative Coins page.
  • By the is your Marine Corps IQ?  Find out with this fun quiz on the information from the commemorative coins page and the July 2005 Coin of the Month!  Take the Marine Corps Quiz!
This image shows the 2005 Marine Corps commemorative silver dollar.

Find out more about commemoratives on the "Commemorative Coins" page.

Veterans and Medals

Medals are round and made of metal, like coins, but they have no value stamped on their face.  They are not money, but are meant to be used as awards to people or groups of people.  Copies of these medals are often made in bronze so that other people can enjoy them.

Congress awarded its very first medal to General George Washington in 1776, before the United States Mint even existed.  In the early days, Congressional medals were awarded only to war heroes and, later, to those who bravely rescued people during disasters.

Congress awarded the medal to heroes such as Major General Andrew Jackson (1815), Major General Zachary Taylor (1846, '47, and '48), Major General Ulysses S. Grant (1863), General John J. Pershing (1946), and General Douglas MacArthur (1962). More recently (1991), two heroes of Desert Storm—General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell—also received this gold medal.

Here are three medals given to groups of veterans:

Check out pictures of these and more medals at Inspector Collector's Medal Mania pages!

And have you seen the Veterans History Project on the Library of Congress site?  Don't miss it!

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