Americans celebrated the first Veterans Day on November 11, 1919, one year to the day after the end of the conflict they knew as the Great War and we (regrettably) know today as World War I.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a message proclaiming the first celebration of “Armistice Day,” to show “gratitude for victory” in World War I and solemn pride “for those that died in our country’s service.” On that day, all business was suspended for two minutes starting at 11 a.m. and parades and public gatherings commemorated the war’s end. The choice of time was deliberate. The agreement ending World War I went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
Over the years, the practice of celebrating Armistice Day spread and states began making it a legal holiday. Congress followed suit in 1938, declaring that the November 11 holiday was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”
In 1954, with World War II and the Korean War having greatly expanded the number of Americans who had fought overseas, Congress renamed Armistice Day “Veterans Day.” In a proclamation marking the renamed holiday, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said the change would be “paying homage to the veterans of all wars.”
The day honors military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation and a remembrance ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The ceremony honors and thanks all who served in the U.S. armed forces.
The price of service in the U.S. military can be high.
- The Civil War remains the deadliest of America’s wars, with estimates of the death toll ranging from 500,000 to 750,000.
- WWI–the USA lost more personnel to disease (63,114) than to combat (53,402), largely due to the influenza epidemic of 1918.
- World War II is the second deadliest conflict, with 405,000 Americans killed.
- Korean War’s fatalities number 36, 914.
- Viet Nam’s total–58, 220
- 6,251 U.S. troops have been killed in war since 2001.
Last year, there were 18.2 million veterans in the United States, 1.6 million are women. 50% of veterans are 65 and over.
So to all of America’s veterans, thank you for your service.