“My fellow countrymen–the armistice was signed this morning. Everything for which America fought has been accomplished. It will now be our fortunate duty to assist by example, by sober, friendly counsel and by material aid in the establishment of just democracy throughout the world.” President Woodrow Wilson proclaiming the end of World War I.
Modern Veterans Day began with the end of “the war to end all wars.” The armistice went into effect at 11:00am on the 11th day of the 11th month. A year later, President 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…”
In 1938, Congress designated Armistice Day, November 11 as a legal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
The hope in 1938 was that there would be no more wars. In 1954, after World War II, Congress officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor veterans of all wars.
Officially proclaiming Veterans Day, 1954, President Eisenhower said:
WHEREAS it has long been our custom to commemorate November 11, the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by redirecting ourselves to the cause of peace; and … WHEREAS, in order to expand the significance of that commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation may pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an Act approved June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168), changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. NOW, THEREFORE, I, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954 as Veterans Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores to preserve our heritage of freedom…
This Monday, November 11, 2013 we will again honor our veterans:
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On Veterans Day, America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation’s uniforms. Each time our country has come under attack, they have risen in her defense. Each time our freedoms have come under assault, they have responded with resolve. Through the generations, their courage and sacrifice have allowed our Republic to flourish. And today, a Nation acknowledges its profound debt of gratitude to the patriots who have kept it whole…
For more information on the history of Veterans Day, see these sources:
- VA, Office of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs, History of Veterans Day
- US Army Center of Military History, The History of Veterans Day
- Library of Congress, In Custodia Legis, Armistice Day/Veterans Day