The year was 1918. The United States had been engaged in a terrible World War for one and a half years, mobilizing more than 4 million soldiers and losing 110,000 casualties. Other countries had been involved with the Great War since 1914. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice, a cease-fire, ending four years of global fighting. Although the formal end to the war was the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, Armistice Day is recognized as the day when the fighting stopped. President Woodrow Wilson first made November 11 a holiday in 1919 to commemorate all those who had fought in “the war to end all wars.” Congress made it an official federal holiday in 1938.
Just a few short years later, America was again embroiled in another war: World War II, the deadliest war in world history. More than 1 million soldiers were killed or wounded in action. In June 1954, nine years after the war was over, Congress amended Coolidge’s 1938 act to call November 11 “Veterans Day.” The holiday commemorates American service members serving in all wars.
Veterans Day is a time to remember the many men and women who have served or are still serving in the armed forces, and the sacrifices they have made to protect our freedom. Many people have traditions on Veterans Day, including visiting the WWII Memorial or the Vietnam Wall, and displaying the American flag in front of their home.
One of the teachers at my school, himself a Vietnam War veteran, encapsulated the message of all veterans to all American citizens:
“Whether you are inclined to serve in the military or not, and no matter how you feel about the current political winds or national policy, please always thank, honor and support those who have answered the call to serve. They give so much of themselves, even their very lives, to serve our country and our way of life.”
Members of the American military fight for the sovereignty and freedom of America. November 11 is a day to spend some time commemorating the veterans of our country. So if you see a man or woman in uniform, be sure to thank them for their service.