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. – President Woodrow Wilson
One hundred years ago today, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month, World War I officially ended.
Veteran’s Day is a familiar holiday for many of us. Chances are you, or someone you love is a veteran. You may even have the honor to care for an elderly veteran who served our country during some of our most difficult hours.
Not only does Veterans Day have a special and very personal meaning to many Americans, it also has surprisingly meaningful origins.
Why November 11th?
November 11th is not just a random date picked by Congress to celebrate veterans. Every year, Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11th, a date that was as significant to our grandparents as September 11th is to us.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the “Armistice” of World War I implemented, which meant that the fighting was to stop. Because of this significant date, November 11 was remembered. In 1968, the day was briefly changed to the fourth Monday in October for the sake of convenience. But the meaning behind the date was so important that, in 1975, it was changed back to November 11th.
The Great War had the highest number of casualties in any war to date. At first, November 11th was celebrated as a Memorial Day to honor those who had fallen during World War I. So many had lost loved ones that the nation needed a day to mourn.
As time went on, November 11th morphed into a day to celebrate all veterans, past and present, a day in which we join the entire world in remembrance and celebration.
Veterans Day Around the World
This month, millions of people in Great Britain, Australia, France, Belgium, and Canada remember their veterans—those who returned home and those who did not. The day goes by many different names and differs between celebrating veterans, memorializing the fallen, or both. However, they all revolve around November 11th.
The British Royal Family has a moment of silence at 11am. In Belgium, they play the Last Call on a bugle. In many of the commonwealth and former commonwealth countries, they wear red poppies. In America, we have our own way of honoring our heroes.
A Celebration of Veterans
A day to celebrate all veterans was originally proposed by a Navy veteran, Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama. After the end of World War II, Weeks wanted a day too, not just for the remembrance of World War 1I veterans, but a day for all veterans. And in 1947, there were a lot of them.
Parades marked the first celebration of Veterans Day and they still do today. Places of business are closed. Restaurants offer free meals to vets. It’s a day to express our gratefulness to those who have sacrificed on our behalf.
Today, Veterans Day is usually celebrated over an entire weekend as we remember the living and thank the veterans in our lives. Without veterans, we wouldn’t be have the freedoms we take for granted every day. Without them, the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month would have been just another moment in the middle of a war.
Thank you, veterans past and present. We honor your service and remember your valor.