Veterans Day: What Is It Today and How Has It Changed?
On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 am on the 11th day, in the 11th month of the year, the Allied powers signed an armistice with the German side to officially end World War I. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared the nation’s first Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 -- a day to commemorate the signing of the Armistice and remember those who fought for the country during the war. Cities across the country came together to celebrate with parades and memorials, and all businesses nationwide took a two minute pause at 11:00am. World War I was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” but, unfortunately, the United States entered World War II in 1941.
Alvin J. King lost his son fighting in WWII and mourned the loss of his beloved child on Armistice Day, despite its original intent being to honor those who fought in WW1. King lived in Emporia, Kansas and urged the city to honor not just those who fought in WWI, but those who fought in all wars. King campaigned to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to better honor ALL veterans.
Gaining support from his community along with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Emporia decided to celebrate their own community’s version of Veterans Day, which quickly caught the attention of Kansas Congressman Edward Herbert Rees. Fortunately, Rees fully supported the cause and proposed a bill the following year to change the name of Armistice Day. On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed Public Law 380 to “honor veterans on the 11th day of November… a day dedicated to world peace.” The federal holiday’s name was officially changed to Veterans Day as a day to remember all veterans who have served in all wars.
Not only is this holiday recognized in the United States, but is also commemorated in Great Britain and France. In France, 11/11 is still known as Armistice Day, or Jour d’armistice in French, and is a day to recognize the fallen soldiers. The French President lays down a wreath of the unknown soldier in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, while the rest of the country pays tribute by taking a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m.
In Great Britain, the holiday originated as Armistice Day, but after World War II, the British government wanted to honor those who fought in both wars. In 1956, the holiday became known as Remembrance Sunday and is observed on the second Sunday in November.
In the United States, Veterans Day pays tribute to all men and women who have served our country. As you enjoy your day off, take time to reflect on those who have served and fought for our freedom. You can read inspiring veterans’ stories at www.woundedwarriorproject.org/mission/meet-a-warrior.