The History of Veterans’ Day

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by Editorial Board on November 7, 2013 · 1 comment

in Uncategorized,Living with a Disability,Online Magazine Issues

Veterans’ Day began with the end of World War I in 1918. While the war was not officially over until June 28, 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles, the armistice that was declared in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month became known as the end of the hostilities. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Congress passed a resolution on June 4, 1926, establishing that the anniversary of the armistice, November 11, 1918, should be commemorated with prayer, thanksgiving, and “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Twelve years later in 1938, November 11 became a federal holiday to honor all of those who participated in the war “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”

The U.S. participation in World War II (1941 to 1945) saw the greatest mobilization of military forces in the nation’s history (over 16 million people). And about 5.7 million more served in the Korean War (1950 to 1953). In 1954, veterans’ service organizations convinced Congress to amend the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday and instead call it “Veterans’ Day.” President Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954 and from then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Canada, Australia, Britain, and France also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11 with Remembrance Day. In Europe, it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.

On Memorial Day in 1958, two additional unidentified Americans killed (one in World War II and the other in Korea), were buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery next to the unknown soldier of World War I. In 1973, a law was passed that allowed for burial of unknown Americans from the Vietnam War, but as a result of improved identification techniques, it was not until 1984 that an unidentified soldier was buried in the tomb. In 1998, that Vietnam soldier’s body was identified and moved to his home state. Every Veterans Day at 11:00 a.m., an official wreath-laying ceremony is held at the tomb.

Veterans Day should not be confused with Memorial Day. Memorial Day is set aside to honor American service members who died while serving the country or as a result of injuries incurred in battle. Veterans Day is a time to pay tribute to all American veterans.

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