Veterans Day: A Brief History
Every year, on November 11th, Americans celebrate Veterans Day, a special occasion dedicated to honoring living and deceased military veterans. It stands as an official United States holiday, distinct from Memorial Day, which is specifically meant to pay tribute to veterans who have passed away while serving, whether during wartime or peacetime.
The History of Veterans Day
The origins of Veterans Day can be traced back to the conclusion of World War I. On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued a message declaring the first Armistice Day, marking the official end of World War I. The Armistice with Germany had been signed and put into effect the previous year, in 1918.
In 1928, a Congressional Act established Armistice Day as an annual legal holiday, intending to dedicate it to the cause of world peace. It was to be a day of remembrance and reflection.
However, the significance of this day expanded after World War II in 1945. A World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks advocated for broadening the scope of Armistice Day to honor all veterans, not just those from the First and Second World Wars. Weeks orchestrated the first celebration of Veterans Day in 1947, an event that took place in Alabama, and he was affectionately dubbed "The Father of Veterans Day."
Finally, in 1954, after eight years of persistent efforts by Raymond Weeks and others, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law that officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This transformed the day into a special occasion dedicated to acknowledging, honoring, and expressing gratitude to all living veterans.
Today, our nation is indebted to the bravery and sacrifice of our military heroes. An estimated 16.1 million living veterans have served during at least one war, while 5.2 million have served during peacetime, amounting to a total of 21.3 million veterans. Remarkably, there are still approximately 558,000 Americans who proudly served during World War II.
Ways to Observe Veterans Day
- Thank a Veteran: Whether in person or by sending a heartfelt letter expressing gratitude, you can make a difference by letting a veteran know you care and are thankful for their service.
- Pay your Respects: Visit the resting place of a veteran to pay respects and reflect on their service and sacrifice.
- Local Celebrations: Attend a Veterans Day ceremony, where communities unite to honor their veterans.
- Visit Arlington National Cemetery: Consider visiting Arlington National Cemetery, a solemn and powerful location where a special annual ceremony takes place to pay tribute to our veterans.
- Fly the American flag: Flying your flag can show unity during this significant flag-flying holiday. This simple act goes a long way.
As we celebrate Veterans Day, let us remember the bravery, dedication, and selflessness of our military servicemembers. It is a day to honor their commitment to our country and to express our heartfelt appreciation for their service in protecting and defending our freedom.