The United States celebrated Veterans Day on Thursday, November 11 with events and ceremonies that honored the more than 20 million veterans in America, including more than 30,000 living in Chester County.Veterans Day is often celebrated with parades and speeches, as well as reflection to remember those who perished while defending this nation. Flags are flown at half-mast. Many people also visit cemeteries to pay their respects.
President Barack Obama, speaking to troops still stationed in Korea, remarked “On this day, we honor every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America…We salute fallen heroes, and keep in our prayers those who are still in harm’s way – like the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Originally, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, which celebrated the unofficial end of World War I in 1918; a ceasefire went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month as Germany signed an armistice with the Allies.
The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared the date November 11 to formally be referred to as Armistice Day, a day to honor the veterans of the Great War. During the celebration, businesses remained open with the quiet observance of the event occurring to coincide with the time that the ceasefire began at 11 a.m.
The day continued to be informally celebrated in this manner until 1938, when Congress formally passed an act declaring that November 11 would permanently be a federal holiday in which veterans of World War I would be honored.
As the number of veterans in America continued to rise due to additional wars and conflicts, Armistice Day slowly began to evolve into a holiday that honored all American veterans, not just those who served in World War I. Finally, in 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law that formally made November 11 a day to celebrate all veterans and the holiday’s name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans’ Day.
For a brief time starting with 1971, celebration of the holiday was moved from the traditional November 11 date to the fourth Monday of October. However, due to public outcry against the change, the date once again moved back to the traditional November date in 1978, where it has since remained.
Other countries in Europe and around the world also celebrate Remembrance Day on the same date, with the same intentions as America. Due to the magnitude of the First World War, its impact continues to reverberate with all countries involved.
Veterans Day had its beginnings in the years following what was called “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, that phrase did not hold true. Although only one American veteran of World War I remains, every generation since the Great War has had its own battles to defend America, including World War II, the conflict in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the current War on Terror. Although honoring America’s veterans should not be limited to one day a year, Veterans Day guarantees that all veterans in America will deservedly get the recognition and thanks that each and every one of them so richly deserves.
Anthony Fioriglio is a student at West Chester University and can be reached at AF650463@wcupa.edu