“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” – President Woodrow Wilson, 1918
Initially celebrated to honor the veterans of the First World War, Armistice Day became an official federal holiday in 1938. The holiday was expanded in 1954 to honor all American war veterans. Armistice Day was replaced with Veterans Day and, with a few minor bumps along the way, it has remained the same since.
Celebrating our heroes
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 an armistice was declared between Germany and the allied nations that were fighting in Europe. The peace treaty was signed in June 1919, but the date of the armistice was remembered as the end of the Great War.
In the United States, prior to it becoming an official holiday, Armistice Day was celebrated with parades and public gatherings. Business paused at 11 am to honor those who did not come back from the war. In 1921, an unknown soldier was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on November 11. Similar celebrations were held in Britain and in France.
Leading to Veterans Day
After World War II and the Korean Conflict ended, Armistice Day was expanded to honor the veterans who had served in those conflicts. President Eisenhower signed the legislation changing the name and those honored in June 1954. November 11 was confirmed as the recurring date of Veterans Day.
In 1968, however, Veterans Day was moved to give federal workers a three-day weekend. According to the government, the holiday was to take place on the fourth Monday of October. The change was not popular, though, and many of the states continued to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11. In 1975, the three-day weekend holiday was abandoned and Veterans Day was moved back to November 11.
Veterans Day by any other name
The United States is not the only country to celebrate November 11. Other countries, all involved in World War I, have their own holiday. Canada has Remembrance Day on November 11. France and Britain – as well as other countries in the Commonwealth – celebrate Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday in November).
Each November 11, at 11 a.m., these countries honor those who fell during World War I with two minutes of silence. The victors of the most costly war, to that time, remember the struggle and honor the fallen.
Remembering the struggle
The veterans of World War I are entirely gone, now. Florence Green, a member of Britain’s Women’s Royal Air Force, passed away in 2012. She was almost 111 years old. In the United States, Frank Buckles, a member of the U.S. Army was the last surviving veteran of the Great War. He passed away in February 2011, aged 110.
These were the people we originally honored on Armistice Day, but Veterans Day honors everyone who has served and fought for the United States. Since that glorious day in 1918, American soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and guardsmen have fought across the globe. From the jungles of South East Asia to the mountains of Afghanistan, American’s have done their duty no matter the cost.
November 11, Veterans Day, is for them. Honor them and all that have come before them. They keep this country strong and free.
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.