The War to Begin all Wars
Its hard to imagine that World War I involved 35 countries. It lasted five years, from 1914 to 1918. The United States only fought from 1917 to 1918. A year was more than enough time, however, to claim too many lives, and people held tight to the notion that this was the very last war. When the fighting stopped, leaders of several countries signed an Armistice on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. An Armistice is an agreement to stop all fighting, in other words a truce. This truce was signed on November 11th, 1918 at 11 A.M.
This is important to know because Veterans' Day was originally called Armistice Day. This day was set aside to reflect and remember the sacrifices men and women made during World War I in order to ensure peace. The first official celebration was on November 11th, 1919. Veterans who survived the war marched in parades and were hometown heroes. A Veteran is any soldier who has fought in a war. Ceremonies were held and speeches were made. World War I was called the war to end all wars because everyone hoped there would never be another one.
Almost 20 years later in 1938, Congress voted Armistice Day a federal holiday. Unfortunately the very next year, in 1939, World War II began. This ended the theory of no more wars. It seemed that with the progression of war came the progression of death. Over 16.5 million Americans took part in World War II and 407,000 died in service. Over 292,000 people died during battle.
After World War II, Armistice Day was still celebrated on November 11th. Around the year 1953, people began calling it Veterans' Day. This was in thanks and remembrance to the Veterans in their towns. Many people believed that peace was preserved not only by World War I, but World War II, and the Korean War as well. Congress decided to change the day to an occasion to honor those whod served America in all wars. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11th each year as Veterans' Day.
In 1968, a law changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. People protested that November 11th was a date of historical significance. Finally, in 1978, Congress returned the observance to its traditional date. Every year on November 11th we give thanks for peace, observe a moment of silence at 11 A.M., and remember those who fought and died during times of war.
Although Armistice Day was in honor of World War I, Veterans Day is in honor of every war that the United States has fought. Separate ceremonies and commemoration events occur every year. For example, Veterans and their families gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. in support and remembrance of those who died in the Vietnam War. It is important on this day to give thanks for times of peace, and to remember whos protecting your rights every day.
Source: The United States Embassy, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Library of Congress