A Brief History of Veterans Day

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The Victory Arch in Newport News (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

NATIONWIDE — Every year on Nov. 11, Americans salute those who served in the American Armed Forces. Today, WYDaily takes a look back at the history of Veterans Day.

The War to End All Wars

On Nov. 11, 1918, an armistice went into effect between the Allied nations who fought in World War I and Germany. As a result, this was regarded as the moment that the “War to End All Wars” was brought to a close.

The following year, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address that declared Nov. 11 “Armistice Day” in recognition of the victory of that day.

He stated, “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 or 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…”

On Nov. 11, 1921, the remains of four service members were reburied in the newly-dedicated Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. President Warren Harding placed a Medal of Honor on the casket before it was put into the tomb.

It wasn’t until Jan. 4, 1926 that the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I by passing a resolution, declaring that November 11 should be observed annually in recognition of the sacrifices made to bring about the conclusion of the Great War.

Approved on May 13, 1938, Act 52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a was passed, declaring Armistice Day be recognized each year on Nov. 11.

A Observance for All Veterans

While World War I was billed as “The War to End All Wars,” that was far from true. The United States paid a heavy price during World War II and the subsequent Korean War.

In 1954, the 83rd U.S. Congress Amended the Act of 1938 to change the wording from “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day” to be more inclusive of veterans not just from World War I, but those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces at any point.

On Oct. 8 of that year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the first “Veterans Day Proclamation,” which also appointed members to the various committees meant to honor veterans.

It wasn’t until June 28, 1968 that Veterans Day was considered a federal holiday. With the passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill, this gave federal employees three day weekends to observe national holidays, including Veterans Day. While the holiday briefly moved to October, President Gerald R. Ford, with the support of state legislatures and the American citizens, affirmed that the holiday would be observed each year on Nov. 11.

Today

Veterans Day is now observed as one of the most patriotic holidays. It differs from Memorial Day, which recognizes the ultimate sacrifices made by veterans in the line of duty. Veterans Day, instead, honors the entirety of the United States military, regardless of service, sacrifice, status, and time.

Each year, observances are held, thanks are given, and honors are bestowed. Other nations around the worl06d join the United States in similar fashion on Nov. 11, with Canada and Australia giving it the moniker of “Remembrance Day” and Great Britain observing it under the same name, but on the Sunday closest to Nov. 11.

Take a moment today to thank a veteran and ask to listen to their stories.

To hear some first-hand stories of American veterans, make sure to check out the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress.

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