Veterans Day is this Wednesday, November 11th. What is Veterans Day, and why do we celebrate it?
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. It was instituted by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to commemorate the ending of World War I. At the time, World War I was referred to as “the war to end all wars”. It was hoped and believed that another global war would not be fought. While the war officially ended in June 1919, an armistice agreement (armistice means to stop open acts of warfare – like a cease-fire) went into effect at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th, 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). Thus November 11th, 1918 is generally referred to as the end of the war. President Wilson said the day was to be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”. Because of the belief that World War I was the last world war that would be fought, peace was something significant to be constantly celebrated and remembered. In 1938, Armistice Day was made a legal national holiday with parades and public speeches, as well as a temporary pause of business at 11:00 a.m.
How did Armistice Day become Veterans Day? In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, veterans organizations urged Congress to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all American veterans, not only those from World War I. Now Veterans Day is a holiday to celebrate all American veterans, past, present, and future. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Veterans Day, I encourage you to visit the Veterans Affairs page devoted to this holiday.
What are some common ways of celebrating Veterans Day? Many towns still hold parades and ceremonies. Veterans are often invited to attend and/or speak at such ceremonies. Schools may hold assemblies with students’ family members who are veterans in attendance. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers an excellent teacher’s guide for planning a Veterans Day celebration. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs usually holds a Veterans Day program, but this year they are producing a video that will be posted on their website on Veterans Day.
If you are a veteran or in active service, or the family of a service member, we encourage you to visit our Military and Veterans Service Center for all the great campus resources available to you.
Have a safe and happy Veterans Day!