Commemorating Veterans Day

Veterans Day is observed on November 11, a day set aside to recognize and celebrate military service members for their dedication and loyalty. The meaning of Veterans Day has evolved over the years. The day was first commemorated after World War I, which ended with an armistice declared on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month between the Allied Powers and Germany. November 11, 1919, was remembered as the day that was the end of “the war to end all wars.” President Wilson named that day “Armistice Day” and dedicated it to the cause of world peace.

With the outbreak of World War II, “Armistice Day” was changed to “Veterans Day.” Through formal changes to the 1938 Act HR7786, the 83rd Congress, and President Eisenhower officially named November 11 Veterans Day to commemorate all American service men and women who served during World War I, World War II, and other conflicts near and far.

In 1954, President Eisenhower directed the formation of a Veterans Day National Committee for purposes of planning and coordinating national events, parades, and recreational and cultural activities on Veterans Day. Currently, the honorary chairman is President Barack Obama, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric L. Shinseki serves as chairman. The original committee chairman was Harvey V. Higley, who was joined by representatives from the American National Red Cross, Catholic War Veterans of the USA, Women’s Forum on National Security, Coast Guard League, and many more. Other representative members of the committee today include the Army & Navy Union USA, Marine Corps League, the Military Order of World Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and more.

Veterans Day is celebrated through several parades and remembrance events. The largest is held at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The highlight of the event is when President Obama places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns. In addition, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony by the Women In Military Service For America Memorial. This year, the American Freedom Festival will perform a concert honoring veterans and military personnel. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Women’s Memorial also conduct ceremonies to pay respect to all who served during the Vietnam War.

Other venues performing speeches and tributes include, but are not limited to, the Navy Memorial, Air Force Memorial, National Marine Corps Museum, and Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens. In addition, there are other countries celebrating Veterans Day on or near November 11 including France, Australia, Britain (called Remembrance Sunday), and Canada (called Remembrance Day).

The breadth of activities taking place during Veterans Day, nationally and internationally, provides an opportunity to celebrate veterans who devote themselves to protecting their country. It’s a time for families, friends, and communities to honor military service members through public ceremonies and personal gestures of appreciation.