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The history of Veterans Day goes back to World War I

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Posted at 7:15 AM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 07:15:52-05

(WXYZ) — Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11 every year, and we've been honoring our veterans for more than 100 years on that day, but the official holiday dates back to 1938.

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According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it all started with the end of World War I when the Treat of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, but fighting ended months earlier when an armistice went into effect between the Allies and Germany. The VA said that armistice went into effect on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of of the eleventh month," on Nov. 11, 1918.

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A year later, then-President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

The VA reports that Wilson said "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…"

According to the VA, the original plan was to have a day-long celebration with parades, public meetings and a brief business stoppage at 11 a.m.

Congress officially recognized the end of World War I with a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, according to the VA. In that resolution, they recognized Nov. 11 every year to be celebrated and observed.

Then an act that was approved in 1938 made Nov. 11 a legal holiday known as "Armistice Day." According to the VA, Congress later amended the act to replace "Armistice" with "Veterans," and Veterans Day became official on June 1, 1954.

Later that year, the VA said President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation. It read, "In order to insure 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."

Veterans Day also became a holiday for federal employees under the Uniform Holiday Bill, giving them Mondays off, but many states didn't agree with the decision and continued to celebrate it on the original date.

President Gerald Ford later returned the observance of Veterans Day to its original date in 1978, according to the VA, as a majority of states still honored it on Nov. 1.

"The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good," the VA website reads.