"Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave. Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war." -Thucydides
Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11 to honor all of those who served in the U.S. armed forces, particularly during wartime. Whether it's the mosquito-infested jungles at Guadalcanal, the frozen tundra on the Korean Peninsula, the muddy rice paddies in Vietnam, the sandy desert near the Persian Gulf, or the mountains of Afghanistan - wherever and whenever our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are called to serve, they go. On Veterans Day, be sure to pause and remember the many Americans who have fought to make our country the greatest nation on earth.
Soldier: One engaged in military service, especially in the army; an enlisted man or woman; a skilled warrior.
Veteran: An old soldier of long service; a former member of the armed forces.
Armistice: A temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement between the opponents; truce.
Veterans Day: A legal holiday in the U.S. to honor the veterans of the armed forces; originally called Armistice Day, from the armistice terminating World War I on November 11, 1918.
The History of Veterans Day
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, from the armistice (truce) terminating World War I. Armistice Day was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 on the first anniversary of the termination of World War I. After four years of bitter fighting, the "war to end all wars" was over at 11:00 am on November 11, 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). 4,744,000 American soldiers had been called to action, and 116,000 of them had been killed.
November 11, 1919 was set aside to remember the sacrifices that men and women made during World War I in order to ensure a lasting peace. On Armistice Day, soldiers who survived the war marched in parades through their hometowns. Politicians and veteran officers gave speeches and held ceremonies of thanks for the peace they had won.
In 1926, the name Armistice Day became official in America through a Congressional resolution. Congress then made Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938, 20 years after World War I had ended. Armistice Day also became a holiday in France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. In Canada it is known as Remembrance Day, and in the United Kingdom, as Remembrance Sunday.
Unfortunately, the idealistic hope that the First World War was "the war to end all wars" was not realized. In 1939, war again broke out in Europe. Soon, nations great and small were participating in the Second World War. Sixteen and one-half million Americans took part. 407,000 of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.
After World War II, Armistice Day continued to be observed in the U.S. on November 11, until the name was changed to represent its broadened significance. The citizens of Emporia, Kansas began calling the holiday Veterans Day in 1953, in gratitude to all of the veterans in their town. Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of World War II and Korea, Congress passed a bill introduced by a Kansas congressman to rename the federal holiday Veterans Day. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. Thus, the day became an occasion to honor those who had served America in all wars.
A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. Then in 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the federal holiday to be on the second Monday in November. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.
The official national Veterans Day ceremony continues to be at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, became a focal point of reverence for America's veterans. Similar ceremonies occur in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each of those nation's highest places of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe).
After the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, Veterans Day celebrations changed somewhat. There were fewer military parades and ceremonies. Families who lost sons and daughters in wars put more emphasis on turning their thoughts toward peace and the avoidance of future wars. Veterans began gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. to stand quiet vigil at the names of their friends and relatives who fell in the Vietnam War.
On August 3, 2001, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution designating the week of November 11 as National Veterans Awareness Week. Its purpose would be to educate elementary and secondary school students about the contributions and sacrifices made by veterans. As George Washington said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Veterans Day Today
The veterans of our nation have been safeguarding our liberties ever since the American Revolution. Over the years, our country has faced many threats. However, the current war on terrorism is unlike any of the other battles fought from World War I to Desert Storm. The terrorist attacks pointed out just how fragile our freedoms really are, and brought attention to the vigilance required to maintain those freedoms.
George Orwell once said, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." It is those "rough" men and women who have been America's sentinels of liberty for over 225 years. We can best pay tribute by recognizing what they have achieved and joining them in their resolve to keep America strong and free.
Indeed, the modern patriots who wear the uniform today in our armed services deserve our appreciation, our support, and our recognition. Please observe a moment of silence on Veterans Day to pray for those who now serve, as well as thanking those veterans who proudly served before. God bless them and God bless America!
Did You KnowÖ?
On Veterans Day and Memorial Day (a special day of remembrance for those who died in our nation's service), organized veterans support groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars raise funds for their charitable activities by selling paper poppies made by disabled veterans. This bright red wildflower became a symbol of World War I after a bloody battle in a field of poppies called Flanders Field in Belgium.
Itís a tradition to honor brave soldiers with medals, pins, and ribbons. You can make some colorful pins for awarding to cherished veterans in appreciation for their sacrifices, dedication, and service. Make one for yourself, too, and wear it on your shirt for Veterans Day. You will need: large safety pins, colored beads (red, white, blue), thin yellow ribbon, white glue, waxed paper, scissors. Directions: Thread a pattern of red, white, and blue colored beads onto the pin side of a large safety pin. Glue the beads onto the pin. Let them dry on waxed paper. Tie a little yellow ribbon onto the other arm of each pin, so that when you are wearing it the beads are on top and the ribbon hangs down. The yellow ribbon is a remembrance for prisoners of war, soldiers missing in action, and all military men and women who are far away from home.
Veterans Day Activities
In the words of Frederic Remington, "Soldiers, like other men, found more hard work than glory in their calling." Nevertheless, America's veterans did not hesitate to answer the call to military duty when their country needed them, and most ask for nothing in repayment of their sacrifices. But some need their country's help, even as their country once needed theirs, to readjust and to recover from wounds, or to overcome hardships brought on by disabilities, age and infirmity. You can volunteer to help a veteran in need, or send notes or cards to hospitalized veterans or those living in veterans homes.
Most people probably know someone - a grandfather, uncle, father, brother, friend - who fought in a war or otherwise served in the armed forces. Take a few minutes out of your day to personally thank them for keeping your country and your family safe. Invite a veteran to share his or her personal experiences with your school or group. Many of our veterans have exceptional first-person accounts of what defending liberty really means. (If you do not know a veteran, your local American Legion or VFW post may be able to recommend one in your area who would be willing to speak.) You may also want to do some research to find out about your ancestors who served in the armed forces. Perhaps you will find some who date back to the Civil War or even the American Revolution!
Display the American flag to show your patriotism and support for our troops. Attend a Veterans Day parade, ceremony, or other presentation. Visit a National Memorial Cemetery. Watch a patriotic movie. Create a patriotic poster. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Sing the National Anthem and other patriotic songs. Finally, donít forget to pray for our military personnel who are currently in action.
-Send a letter, card, e-mail, or care package to a soldier. If you have an APO or other military mailing address of a loved one serving overseas, you may write letters and assemble your own care package to be sent via regular US Mail to your service member. If not, you may wish to make your contribution through one of the following organizations:
Veterans Day Websites
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