A Brief History of Veterans Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany was declared after four years of “The Great War.” Eight months later, on June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles signed in France officially ended what we now refer to as World War I.

A year after the armistice, on November 11th of 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson referred to the day as Armistice Day to honor the end of the war and those who fought in it. He said, “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…”

November 11th became a legal federal holiday in 1938 after World War II and the Korean War. Armistice Day became Veterans Day and converted to a dedication to all American veterans of all military branches. The exchange of titles happened on June 1, 1954 after Congress passed a bill that President Eisenhower would later approve and sign.

He explained that, “…it is well for us to pause, to acknowledge our debt to those who paid so large a share of freedom’s price. As we stand here in grateful remembrance of the veterans’ contributions we renew our conviction of individual responsibility to live in ways that support the eternal truths upon which our Nation is founded, and from which flows all its strength and all its greatness.”

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day. Veterans day is a day of recognition for those who serve in the military. Whereas Peter Grier of the DC Decoder described Memorial Day as “a day set aside to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and died in the service of their country.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony commences precisely at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.”

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