A Brief History of Veteran’s Day


On the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” the Great War or World War I came to a thundering silence. By November 11, 1918, the war had been going on for over five years, involved over thirty countries and led to the deaths of about 9 million soldiers. The United States, who joined the fighting on April 2, 1917, had approximately 116,000 deaths by the time the war ended. This tragic conflict was officially ended on June 28, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Palace of Versailles in France. Months later on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the first “Armistice Day” was to be held, in which reflections, “will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” 

American Soldiers prepare to storm the beach during D-Day on June 6, 1944. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

In 1938, Armistice Day became a national holiday. Unfortunately, World War I was not the “war to end all wars” as the United States found itself engaged in World War II from 1941 to 1945, and this war led to the deaths of approximately 400,000 U.S. service members. The United States was also involved in a conflict on the Korean Peninsula in the Korean War which took place between 1950 to 1953. Due to this, many veterans and organizations wanted Armistice Day to be redesignated and in 1954, Congress passed legislation that changed Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day. It was now a day officially dedicated to all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who had served our country. Every year, Veteran’s Day parades take place around the country to honor our brave servicemen and women and students assemble and hear the stories and insight of veterans. 

There are currently around 18 million veterans in the United States according to the United States Census. Of those 18 million, approximately 7 million veterans served during the time of the Vietnam War, 2 million during the Korean War, 3 million in the War on Terror, and about 325,000 served during World War II. These men and women left families, friends, and communities to serve. They put their entire lives aside and worked to preserve the freedoms of the American people. 

Sailors participate in the Veteran’s Day Parade in New York City. Image courtesy of Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey

As November 11th dawns, Veteran’s Day is not merely a day off from school. It is a time to be thankful and reflect. To understand the sacrifices made by fellow Americans. The service of our veterans warrants great thanks from the American populace. If you know a veteran in your family, have a veteran as a teacher, an administrator, a coach, or even see one at the store, make sure to thank them for their service. As former President Ronald Reagan stated, “We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.”