Celebrating Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in thePalaceofVersaillesoutside the town ofVersailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations andGermanywent into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice. The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I.
In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried inArlingtonNationalCemetery. Similarly, unknown soldiers had been buried inEnglandat Westminster Abbey and atFranceat the Arc de Triomphe. All of these memorials took place on November 11th to commemorate the end of the "war to end all wars."

In 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of armed forces in the Nation’s history and after American forces had fought aggression inKorea, the veterans service organizations, urged that the word "Veterans" replace the word "Armistice" . On June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. On Memorial Day, 1958, two unidentified soldiers were interred atArlingtonNationalCemeteryhaving died in World War II and the Korean War. In 1984, an unknown soldier who died in the Vietnam War was placed next to the others.

National ceremonies commemorating Veterans Day occur each year at the the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 AM on November 11, a color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. Then the presidential wreath is laid upon the tomb. Finally, the bugler plays taps.

Each Veterans Day should be a time when Americans stop and remember the brave men and women who have risked their lives for theUnited States of America. As Dwight Eisenhower said, "...it is well for us to pause, to acknowledge our debt to those who paid so large a share of freedom's price. As we stand here in grateful remembrance of the veterans' contributions we renew our conviction of individual responsibility to live in ways that support the eternal truths upon which our Nation is founded, and from which flows all its strength and all its greatness."

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