The federal holiday of Veterans Day, which honors living veterans who served in the military, dates all the way back to 1919.
The holiday grew out of the commemoration of Armistice Day, when fighting between the Allied countries and Germany ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It was to have been the end of “the war to end all wars.”
President Woodrow Wilson inaugurated the first celebration in 1919, with parades and a brief break in business starting at 11 a.m.
Friday, on the 103rd observance of the holiday, the nation continues to hold parades and events to mark the day, including several events in and around Chicago.
Soldier Field’s Connection to Veterans Day
At 11 a.m., the city will host its annual Veteran’s Day Commemoration Ceremony, a major tradition that brings together members of the Illinois National Guard as well as members from each branch of the United States Military. Brigadier General Rodney Boyd, Assistant Adjutant General for the Illinois Army National Guard, will deliver the keynote address
The ceremony will take place inside the gates at Soldier Field — which was named to honor the men lost in World War 1 — in front of the “American Doughboy.” Doughboy was an informal term for a member of the United States Army or Marine Corps, the city of Chicago says, and was “especially used to refer to members of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.”
According to the city, The Doughboy sculpture, originally placed in Garfield Park, was restored and installed in Soldier Field as part of the stadium’s renovation.
“Veterans Day is our sacred opportunity to remember and thank veterans of past and present for proudly serving our country,” said Mayor Lightfoot who’s set to attend Friday’s event. “As we honor their bravery and sacrifice, we must demonstrate our gratitude to veterans and their families by ensuring that they come home to a city that cares for them and fights for their happiness and prosperity in return.”
Also in the city on Friday, Brookfield Zoo will host a Veterans Day Ceremony. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., military memorabilia and vehicles will be on display. Guests can also enjoy live music, a performance of the National Anthem and more.
Additionally, admission to the zoo will be free for all guests.
In the suburbs, Orland Park will host its annual Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. in the Village Center, and Streamwood will host a commemoration event at 11 a.m. at Village Hall.
Is Mail Delivered on Veterans Day? Are Schools and Banks Closed?
Due to Veterans Day being a federal holiday, mail will not be delivered and the United States Postal Service will be closed. Similarly, many banks will be closed, along with federal courts and non-essential government offices.
In Illinois, driver’s license facilities and other Secretary of State’s offices will be closed, a press release from Secretary Jesse White’s office said.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, Veterans Day isn’t considered a “legal school holiday.” However, the board does indicate that districts can choose to celebrate it. In those cases, the district considers it a “Not in Attendance” day, which means “no students are engaged in learning as determined by the local school board.
While some do observe the day, others don’t. And thus, the answer depends on which school your child attends.
NIA, the Board says, “is primarily used for breaks throughout the year as well as district-specific holidays.”
Other NIA days, the Board says, include Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Casmir Pulaski Day and Columbus Day.
According to the Chicago Public Schools 2022-2023 calendar, Veterans Day is not observed as a holiday. However, Election Day 2022 was.
So, What is Open?
What will be open — and free to all visitors — are National Parks. “The National Park Service invites all visitors to remember our veterans by visiting any National Park Service site for free on Veterans Day (November 11),” the NPS says.
Veterans Day Deals
A number of businesses are offering deals and free meals to honor those who have served the country.
Most in-person discounts will require proof of service, such a military ID or veteran organization membership card. Online discounts may require registration with ID.me to verify service.
Here’s a roundup of freebies and deals running for Veterans Day in the Chicago area:
7-Eleven, Speedway and Stripes locations will offer a free Big Bite Hot Dog, which can be redeemed Friday in stores or by delivery through the 7NOW app.
Veterans and active-duty military members can receive a free entrée from a special menu Friday at Applebee’s.
Bed Bath & Beyond
The retail store is giving veterans, active-duty members and their spouses 25% off their entire purchase. The deal is running now until Friday.
Bar Louie will provide active-duty and retired military members who dine in Friday a complimentary craft burger.
Buffalo Wild Wings
The casual-dining eatery will give a free order of 10 boneless wings and fries for veterans and active-duty services members Friday. The offer will be available for dine-in or takeout.
California Pizza Kitchen
Veterans and active-duty military can receive a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage and entrée from a special menu Friday at California Pizza Kitchen.
The coffee chain will give veterans, active-duty military members and their spouses a free hot brewed coffee Friday.
Chili’s will offer service members a free meal for in-restaurant dining Friday. Options will include soup and salad, boneless wings and more.
Veterans and active-duty military members can receive a free donut Friday at participating Dunkin’ locations.
The pancake house will thank veterans and active-duty military members with a free stack from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday.
Krispy Kreme will celebrate veterans Friday, providing them with a free doughnut and small brewed coffee, iced or hot, at participating locations.
Veterans and active-duty service members can receive a free order of Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, fries and coleslaw from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Red Lobster. The offer will be available for dine-in and to-go orders.
The coffee chain will offer veterans, military members and their spouses a free tall hot brewed or iced coffee Friday at participating locations.
Military members, veterans and their family members can save 10% on two purchases through the retailer’s Circle program.
Walgreens is providing veterans, military members and their family members with 20% off eligible regular-priced items in stores. The discount is available Friday through Monday, Nov. 11.