Veterans are men and women who have served in the military. In fact, more than 48 million Americans have served in times of war and peace since 1776.
Veterans Day is observed on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. An armistice is an agreement to end fighting signed by opponents in a war.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. He wanted America to have a day to reflect on the heroism of veterans who died in service.
The hope was that World War I would be “the war to end all wars,” but another war broke out in Europe only a few years later. Sadly, in the following years, hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives in World War II and the Korean War.
In 1953, Alfred King, a shoe store owner in Emporia, Kansas, had an idea. Alfred believed it was important to expand Armistice Day to celebrate veterans of all wars, not just those who served in World War I. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into “All” Veterans Day.
With the support of the Emporia community, and help from U.S. Representative Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill to replace “Armistice Day” with “Veterans Day” was pushed through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954, and November 11 has been known as Veterans Day ever since.
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of our country, especially those who died in battle.
Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor all people who served honorably in the military, both living and deceased veterans, in wartime and peacetime.
There are approximately 25 million living veterans. Veterans Day is a day to thank these living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our nation are appreciated and to emphasize that all people who serve, not only those who have died, have sacrificed on behalf of our freedom.
Several other countries honor their veterans each year on November 11. However, the name and types of commemorations differ from Veterans Day celebrations in the United States.
Canada and Australia observe “Remembrance Day” on November 11, and Great Britain observes “Remembrance Day” on the Sunday nearest to November 11. In Australia, Remembrance Day is very much like America’s Memorial Day, a day to honor that nation’s veterans who died during a war.
Much like U.S. Veterans Day celebrations, Canada’s Remembrance Day honors all who have served in Canada’s Armed Forces. On this day, Canadians wear red poppy flowers in honor of their war dead. In the United States, the wearing of poppy flowers is usually reserved for Memorial Day, not Veterans Day.
Many cities around the country hold community parades and events to honor and thank their local veterans and heroes. The most famous Veterans Day observance in the United States takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
At 11 A.M., the same time of the signing of the armistice to end World War I, two minutes of silence are observed, and the president of the United States places a wreath at the tomb.