On Friday November 11, America celebrates Veterans Day in a humble effort to recognize those men and women who have served in the armed forces.
This tradition began with President Woodrow Wilson who proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. This was one year to the day after an armistice had been signed between Germany and the Allies, bringing an end to World War I combat in Europe.
Wilson, battling the effects of his recent stroke, declared: “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…”
Wilson was very determined to make sure those who had fought and died for America were remembered and honored. With one of his final acts of office, Wilson signed legislation to inter the remains of an Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. On the two year anniversary of his Armistice Day proclamation, Wilson returned as a member of a parade to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He refused a place of honor in the procession and traveled as an ordinary citizen.
On May 13, 1938, Congress passed legislation making November 11 an official federal holiday, Armistice Day. On June 1, 1954, after the world had witnessed another unspeakably violent conflict, President Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the holiday from “Armistice” Day to “Veterans” Day to be more inclusive of all and future wars.