What is the history and meaning of Veterans Day? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gives us the details on the holiday, which is Thursday.

1. What is Veterans Day?

Legislation approved June 1, 1954, made Nov. 11 a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation, which stated: "In order to ensure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.

"Toward this end, I am designating the administrator of Veterans Affairs as chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the executive branch of the government to assist the national committee in every way possible."

2. How did Veterans Day originate?

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, but fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Then-President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day for Americans to "be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory." Armistice Day was to be observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.

3. When did it became a federal holiday?

The U.S. Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926.

An act was approved May 13, 1938, to make Nov. 11 each year a legal holiday — a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day, primarily to honor World War I veterans.

4. When did the name change?

After World War II required the greatest American military mobilization and U.S. forces fought aggression in Korea, veterans urged the 83rd Congress to amend the act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

5. How is Veterans Day recognized?

A Veterans Day national ceremony is held each year at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony includes the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.


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