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Veterans Day, a Brief History

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Nov 9, 2016 1:33:06 PM

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery

Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor or pay tribute to the sacrifices made by all U.S. veterans – living or deceased – for serving our country during war or peacetime. It falls on November 11th each year, which is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities between Germany and the Allied Nations, marking an end to World War I. However, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many Americans confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, and even more don’t know the history behind the national holiday.

A day to honor veterans of WWI

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919. However, fighting stopped seven months prior when an armistice was signed and went into effect, temporarily stopping fighting between the Allied Nations and Germany. The armistice was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour in 1918. The first Veterans Day was observed on the anniversary one year later, in 1919. 

It was called Armistice Day at that time, and President Wilson marked the day when he proclaimed “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...”

Americans observed the day by having a moment of silence beginning at 11am and suspending all business activities for several minutes, and having public parades or town hall meetings. Armistice Day wasn’t recognized as a legal holiday until 1938 – two decades after the end of the Great War. A little over a year after Congress approved the act that recognized Armistice Day as a legal holiday, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. 

Armistice Day → Veterans Day

World War II required the largest mobilization of American forces in the history of the nation. It was the most devastating international conflict in history, claiming the lives of millions of servicemen and civilians. WWII ended in 1945. Unfortunately, a mere five years later it was followed by the deployment of American troops to fight in another war, this time in Korea, when North Korea invaded South Korea.  

After American soldiers returned home from the Korean War, at the behest of the nation’s veteran’s service organizations, the name of Armistice Day was changed by removing the word ‘armistice’ and changing it to ‘veterans’, and it was decreed that November 11th is a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

National Veterans Day ceremony

The Veterans Day National Committee holds a ceremony every year on November 11th at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in observance of Veterans Day and to honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The observance begins at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside with a parade by veterans' organizations and speeches from American leaders. 

The Veterans Day National Committee also recognizes regional Veterans Day observances held throughout the country.  From parades to military exhibits and tributes, find more information on Veterans Day ceremonies in your area, here.

From those who fought in World War I to those stationed overseas today, the sacrifices of the men and women of our Armed Forces have made living in this great nation possible. All of us here at GA Foods sincerely thank all United States veterans and active-duty troops for their service to this country. 


Topics: Military, Armed Forces

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