With Veterans Day quickly approaching, many of us are making plans to participate in local parades, ceremonies or Veteran’s celebrations to honor the men and women who have served our country. As we prepare to recognize the sacrifices Veterans have made, we thought we would take the opportunity to share some of the rich history of this important day.
It was originally called Armistice Day.
On the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed between the Allied countries and Germany to cease the fighting of World War I. To commemorate this historical event, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day:
“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 the nations.”
The original purpose of Armistice Day was to set aside a time for public parades, meetings and a two-minute suspension of all business activity at 11 a.m. The day did not become a national holiday until enacted by Congress in 1938.
It didn’t always include all Veterans.
When the holiday was first conceived, it was meant to honor those who served in World War I. Following World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill renaming Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Today, we honor and celebrate all Veterans for their love of country, patriotism and sacrifice for the common good.
It carries historical significance.
Although World War I was not officially over until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919, the armistice agreement on November 11 is seen as the end to the fighting. When Congress tried to move the official date of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, multiple states, localities and Veteran’s groups resisted the change because of the great historical significance many Americans attach to the original date.
Flags do not fly at half-staff.
A flag flying at half-staff is seen as a symbol of respect, mourning, distress or salute. Veterans Day is a day set aside for celebration and honor, and therefore is not a day of half-staff. Instead, businesses and homes are encouraged to fly POW/MIA flags and the flags of military branches to honor and show support to Veterans.
Arlington National Cemetery holds the Veterans Day National Ceremony.
Every year on November 11, the Veterans Day National Ceremony is held at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony commences at exactly 11 a.m. when the president, or his representative, lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a bugler sounds “Taps.” Following the laying of the presidential wreath, the ceremony continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater where a color guard composed of members from each of the Armed Forces participates in a parade of flags.
Veterans Day is a unique federal holiday in which we celebrate and thank everyone who has served or is currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. Keep these traditions in mind as you plan your Veterans Day celebrations.