Veterans Day, holiday observed annually in the United States in honor of all those, living and dead, who served with the U.S. armed forces. Unlike Memorial Day, which honors those who have died in wartime, Veterans Day honors all those who have served, in times of peace as well as in war.
|II||ORIGINS OF VETERANS DAY|
Veterans Day is observed on November 11. The holiday was originally called Armistice Day, and it commemorated the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Fighting stopped at 11 am, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
In 1919, on the first anniversary of the World War I armistice (truce), President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation expressing pride in the heroism of those who had died during the war. Business stopped for two minutes starting at 11 am, and it later became customary to observe two minutes of silence from 11 am. Many states made Armistice Day a state holiday in the 1920s and 1930s, and in 1938 the Congress of the United States declared it a federal holiday.
|III||FROM ARMISTICE DAY TO VETERANS DAY|
In 1954 the name of the holiday was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor those who had served in World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953). Today, the holiday honors all veterans. In 1968 Congress changed the date of the holiday to the fourth Monday in October to give Americans a three-day weekend. But because of the significance of November 11 to many people, the traditional date was restored by law in 1978.
|IV||VETERANS DAY CELEBRATIONS|
Veterans Day is marked by parades and speeches and by formal ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Congress voted to establish the tomb in 1921, and since that time unknown soldiers from several wars in which the United States has taken part have been buried in it. On Veterans Day, the president of the United States or a representative of the president traditionally places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns.
|V||NOVEMBER 11 ELSEWHERE|
In Canada and Britain, November 11 is observed as Remembrance Day. Britain’s king George V first called for a two-minute silence at 11 am, a tradition that continues to this day. Church services are held in Britain on the Sunday nearest November 11, known as Remembrance Sunday, in honor of those who died fighting for their country. France observes the Fête de l’armistice on November 11.
The best-known wreath-laying ceremony in Britain is at the Cenotaph, a memorial in London to all those killed in World War I. The British monarch, members of the royal family, and the prime minister take part in the ceremony. In France military parades are held on November 11. France’s Unknown Soldier from World War I is buried beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada, recognizes Canadians who served in World War I.
In the weeks before Remembrance Day in Britain and Canada, volunteers sell artificial red poppies. The poppies recall the poppy fields of Flanders, a historic region that now forms parts of Belgium, France, and The Netherlands. Many soldiers died in battles fought in Flanders during World War I. John McCrae, a Canadian physician and poet, eulogized them in a poem titled “In Flanders Fields,” which begins “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row,...”