November 11th is Veterans Day. Here are four things we believe our readers should know about this federal holiday.
1. We’ve honored veterans on this day for 100 years.
On November 11, 1919, marking the one year anniversary of end of fighting between the Allies and Germany in World War I (the war formally ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles), President Woodrow Wilson gave the first Armistice Day proclamation.
ADDRESS TO FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN
The White House, November 11, 1919.
A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.
With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.
Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.
To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.
2. Veterans Day is often confused with Memorial Day
Veterans Day is distinct from Memorial Day, on Veterans Day we celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve. On Memorial Day, we remember those veterans who have died in service to our nation.
As of 2019, there are almost 18 million living veterans who served during at least one war. Of those living veterans approximately 2 million served during the Korean War, approximately 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War, and 3 million served during our War on Terrorism. Of the approximately 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 389,292 were still alive in 2019.
3. Armistice Day became a federal holiday in 1938
Congress passed a resolution in 1926 encouraging state governors to observe Armistice Day and encourage President Calvin Coolidge to issue an annual proclamations calling for the observance of Armistice Day on November 11th. Congress passed a law in 1938 making Armistice Day a federal holiday.
4. Armistice Day Becomes Veterans Day to Honor All Veterans
The purpose of Armistice Day was originally to honor the veterans of World War I then known as the “Great War” or “war to end all wars.”
In 1954, after World War II required the greatest mobilization of soldiers in the nation’s history and after American soldiers fought in the Korean War, Congress passed and President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law amending the original 1938 law changing the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.
President Eisenhower signed the first Veterans Day proclamation that read:
In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.
To all who served and continue to serve, thank you.