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The History of Veteran’s Day

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1 The History of Veteran’s Day
A time to honor those who have served our nation with valor By Sharon Donohue

2 An Armistice WWI was known as “The Great War” for its devastation and the massive loss of lives. It lasted from An Armistice [“ceasing of hostilities”] was set for November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m.; that is, the 11th day of the 11th month. The last two minutes of fighting in Stenay, Meuse (France) is pictured on the right, at 10:58 a.m.

3 Our Nation’s First Armistice Day
A year later, in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation proclaiming the first Armistice Day. Originally, he envisioned a two-minute period of silence nationwide. He also envisioned there would be parades and celebrations to honor and commemorate our fallen war heroes.

4 November 11, 1919 President Wilson announced: "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…"

5 Another tradition emerges in 1920
The U.S. is not the only nation to commemorate Armistice Day. In 1920, France created a “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” as a way to honor all those who were buried in nameless graves. It lies beneath the Arc de Trioumphe in Paris. This type of tradition first began in Denmark in 1858. It was also done after the Civil War in the U.S.

6 Tomb to the Unknown Soldier
On November 11, 1920, the United Kingdom also created a Tomb to the Unknown Soldier. It lies within Westminster Abbey, a famous cathedral.

7 Meanwhile, in the U.S President Wilson initiated yet another practice. The Sunday nearest Armistice Day would be known as Armistice Day Sunday. It was a day to focus on international peace in one’s place of worship.

8 At Arlington National Cemetery
In the fall of 1921, the United States Congress passed legislation creating our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Like the memorials in France and the United Kingdom, this is a way to recognize and honor our fallen heroes of war whose bodies were buried without being identified.

9 Another piece of legislation . . .
That same fall, Congress passed another law. It declared November 11, 1921, a legal Federal holiday to honor | all those who had participated in the war, both living and dead. Pictured left is President Woodrow Wilson on Armistice Day in 1921.

10 In 1926, yet another resolution . . .
Congress authorized the President to proclaim annually the observance of Armistice Day. But our Constitution allows states the right to determine what holidays they observe. In the 1920s and 1930s, most states observed November 11 as a holiday. Pictured at the right is Pres. Calvin Coolidge, speaking on Armistice Day in 1926, at Arlington National Cemetery.

11 A Holiday for the Federal Gov’t
In the spring of 1938, under President Franklin Roosevelt, Congress passed yet another related law. It designated November 11 a legal holiday for all who are employed by the Federal government. Both then and now, state governments usually followed suit for employees of the state.

12 Another World War . . . People had viewed WWI as the “Great [terrible] War.” They had called it the “War to end all wars.” They were wrong. WWII started only 20 years later and lasted from 1939 to 1945. The United States was actively involved in the war from 1941 to 1945.

13 Then came the Korean War from 1950 to 1953

14 A New Name for Armistice Day
On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law that called for a name change. U.S. War veterans had served not only in WWI, but also in WWII and the Korean War. The new observance would now be called Veteran’s Day.

15 A Monday Holiday Law In 1968, Congress passed a “Monday Holiday Law.”
Holidays like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Presidents’ Day would be celebrated on a Monday from then on. Veteran’s Day was changed to the fourth Monday in October, beginning in 1971.

16 States react by returning to tradition
Initially, from 1971 to 1975, almost all 50 states adopted the Monday holiday. In 1972 Louisiana and Wisconsin reverted to the November 11 date. In 1974 Kentucky was the first of many states, particularly in the south to follow suit and change Veteran’s Day to November 11.

17 One by one it’s a common embrace
By 1975, so many states reverted to the November 11 date that the U.S. Congress changed the national law. Starting in 1978, Veteran’s Day returned to November 11.

18 The 20th century was filled with war
In the 20th century, every American had friends or relatives who served in war. Beginning in 1962, U.S. military fought in the Vietnam War. A peace treaty was signed in 1973, but fighting continued through 1975. Many Americans lost their lives, fighting to give others the same freedom that we enjoy.

19 Wars in the Persian Gulf continue . . .
In 1991, the U.S. fought in the first Gulf War. Following 9/11, the U.S. declared War on Afghanistan. Since 2003, the U.S. is once again involved in Iraq.

20 Who do you know that has served?
Veteran’s Day is a time to honor all who were willing to sacrifice their lives to serve our country. Who do you know who has served in the U.S. military? How can we show our gratitude and appreciation to those friends and loved ones who have served us? Consider what you could do to honor them this day.

21 Credits and Acknowledgments
The chronology for this PP presentation is based on “The History of Veteran’s Day,” from the U.S. Center of Military History, located at: The chronology itself can be viewed at: For detailed credits of PP photos, contact

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