Arlington National Cemetery employees hang U.S. flags in the Memorial Amphitheater in anticipation of the National Veterans Day Observance, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Nov. 6, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery )

Another Veterans Day is upon us, number 105 to be exact. Why do we celebrate this day of remembrance? World War I, the “The Great War” or “War to End All Wars” was so dubbed because at the time a greater war than this could not be imagined. Armistice Day, or the temporary cessation of hostilities of World War I, was celebrated in the eleventh month, on the eleventh day at the eleventh hour. This was the date and time of the call for fighting to cease. Though World War I ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, the war actually ended on Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 o’clock in the morning. Armistice Day, renamed Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 to honor American veterans for their patriotism and the sacrifice they made for the good of our country.

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day. This day would be filled with parades and celebrations and a temporary closing of businesses and schools at 11 a.m. on every November 11. In June 1926 the United States Congress made Armistice Day an official day of remembrance. It was in May 1938 that it was declared a Federal holiday to honor those living and dead who fought in World War I.

After World War II where over 16,000,000 U. S. military served, and the Korean War where over 5,000,000 served, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day. President Dwight David Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” on Oct. 8, 1954.

In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and a change was made making the observation of Veterans Day on the fourth Monday in October to encourage weekend travel and commerce by U.S. citizens. In 1971 when this was first enacted, it caused a lot of confusion among the public and disgruntled feelings among many veterans who believed the celebration date should remain November 11. President Gerald Ford in 1975 changed the date back to the original Nov. 11 for honoring our veterans.

In 1920 Great Britain (Remembrance Sunday), and France (Armistice Day) began to have ceremonies honoring those from their countries who died in World War I. Australia (Anzac Day) and Canada (Remembrance Day) also remember their veterans of World War I and World War II.

In 1921 Congress passed legislation approving the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. The tomb was completed in 1932. Each year on Veterans Day and Memorial Day a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the President of the United States or their designee. This is a very moving and solemn moment.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many folks conflate Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who died or died of injuries sustained while fighting for their county. Veterans Day is a day of remembrance for all those who served in our military services.

On this Veterans Day, take the time to give thanks to all our military for their service. These brave men and women, living and dead, gave so much and sacrificed to keep our country free and to protect those who live here. Think about the selflessness of our veterans on this day and keep them in your heart and mind 365 days a year. We have much to thank them for.

Barbara is the proud wife of a retired military officer. For years she has seen the dedication and bravery of those who serve and has heard the stories of her own British family’s bravery and sacrifice in the European theater of war. Barbara can be reached at: [email protected].

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Barbara enjoys history and is particularly interested in the history of Maryland.