What Is Veterans Day
Schools, government offices and municipal services take a breather every November to pay homage to the men and women who have served the United States in uniform, and unless you're history buff, you may have always wondered, "What is Veteran's Day?" Or, perhaps to be a bit more accurate, maybe after so many years you need a few reminders about the meaning of the holiday. If Veteran's Day evokes for you a sense of Woodrow Wilson, Armistice Day and World War I, then you're on the right track. Read further for some more detailed information about the meaning of Veteran's Day:
Origins. The recognition of Veteran's Day grew out of World War I, which when it was fought was considered the "Great War" because of the toll it took on people around the world. For all intents and purposes, fighting ended on the November 11, 1918, when the Allied powers and Germany reached agreement on an armistice. Schoolchildren are taught that the war ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day on the eleventh month, which is when the Armistice was signed. The War came to an official end on June 28, 1919 when the parties signed the Treaty of Versailles.
President's Role. On the first anniversary of the armistice, President Woodrow Wilson established November 11 as -- well -- Armistice Day. At the time Wilson observed: "To use in America, the reflection 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 ...."
Purpose. President Wilson intended for the day to be filled with parades and other recognition, with business suspending activity exactly at 11:00 a.m. Many states took the president's lead and established legal holidays of their own; in 1926, Congress passed a resolution encouraging the display of the flag and other ceremonies. It wasn't until 1938 when Congress established November 11 as a legal holiday known as "Armistice Day."
Expanding the meaning. After U.S. forces fought in subsequent conflicts -- World War II and Korea -- Congress in 1958 tackled the task of broadening the nature of the holiday. Legislators voted to change the name of the celebration to Veterans Day" to recognize the contributions of all veterans. While there has been some minor tinkering with the day for recognizing Veterans Day in the intervening years, the goal has remained consistent, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs: "to honor veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good."