Veterans Day 2016: What you need to know

Members of the US Navy march with the American flag in  the Veterans Day Parade in New York last year.

Story highlights

  • Veterans Day honors the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces
  • 18.8 million veterans live in the United States
  • There are numerous ways to celebrate Veterans Day 2016

(CNN)Now that this long, stressful election season has finally come to an end, it's time for a holiday. Luckily, there happens to be one just three days after America chooses its next president -- in case you forgot, Veterans Day is Friday.

Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11 to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces as well as those who have fallen defending the country.
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    This will be the first Veterans Day to take place after the historic ban on women participating in ground combat was lifted.
    Since it's a federal holiday, many workers and students have the day off. Whether or not this is the case for you, it's worth taking a moment to learn about the holiday and the veterans who live among us.

    Remember your history

    Although World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, fighting between the Allied forces and Germany had already ceased months prior. On the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice went into effect.
    Armistice Day was celebrated every year thereafter in the United States until 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day to encompass the honoring of veterans of all American wars.
    In 1930 the Veterans Administration (VA) was established to "consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans." It was renamed in 1989 as the Department of Veterans Affairs, continuing to be known as the VA.

    Some key figures

    There are 18.8 million veterans living in the United States as of 2015, according to the Census Bureau. Of these, 1.6 million veterans are women.
    A large proportion of the veteran population, 9.3 million, are aged 65 and older while 1.6 million are younger than 35.
    The American labor force has 7.2 million veterans ages 18 to 65. Of these, 6.8 million are employed. Male and female veterans' annual median incomes are both higher than their nonveteran counterparts.

    Lifting the veil

    Despite veterans having an annual holiday celebrating their heroism, troubling stories have emerged in recent years that paint a grim picture for many veterans in America.
    In 2013, CNN reported that on average more than 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
    In 2014, the Veterans Health Administration was the subject of numerous investigations after reports of negligent handling of a backlog of veterans seeking medical care by VA hospitals went public. Dozens of veterans are reported to have died awaiting treatment.

    Things to do

    There are many ways to celebrate Veterans Day this weekend. Here are some of the biggest events going on around the country:
    This weekend would also be a great time to visit the monuments and memorials devoted to veterans in Washington, D.C.
    You can also refer to your local news outlet for information on holiday events in your area.
    If you're a veteran or active military member, make sure to check out this list of Veterans Day discounts and deals at restaurants, retail stores and recreation.