Origins: Armistice Day
Veterans Day, celebrated annually on November 11th, has its roots in the aftermath of World War I. Known as "The Great War," WWI officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ceased months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
This significant moment marked the end of the war and was initially celebrated as Armistice Day. It was first observed in the United States in 1919, as President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration, with the day being observed with parades, public meetings, and a brief suspension of business activities at 11 a.m.
Transition to Veterans Day
The observance of Armistice Day continued through the years, becoming a legal holiday on May 13th, 1938, dedicated to the cause of world peace and to honor the Veterans of World War I. However, after the colossal impact of World War II and the Korean War, which brought about the greatest mobilization of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen in the nation’s history, a shift occurred in the purpose of the day.
In 1954, after lobbying efforts by Veterans' organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans." President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, officially changing the name to Veterans Day. This change was significant as it expanded the significance of the day to honor American Veterans of all wars.
A Day of Reflection and Respect
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: a celebration to honor America's Veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
Unlike Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead. However, it especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
Conclusion: A Living Tribute
As we celebrate Veterans Day, it's important to remember that it's not just a day for Veterans; it's a day for all Americans. It's a time to remember those who have fought for our country and to recognize the sacrifices they made in the name of freedom and democracy. It's a day to honor our Veterans, to thank them for their service, and to reflect on what their sacrifices have meant to our nation and the world.