On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, going all the way back over a century ago, the first semblance of a Veterans Day celebration took place. And as we celebrate veterans on the holiday in 2012, Americans recall and express their gratitude for the sacrifices made by past and present veterans as they served their country.
In 1918, an armistice--which could also be called a truce--put an end to World War I, which was known at that time as The Great War. The next year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the day as "Armistice Day".
A two-minute moment of silence took place that day, along with parades and other public events. President Wilson was recorded as stating that Americans should look at the day "solemn pride" and "gratitude"-- "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."
And the celebration two years later in 1921 brought upon another American staple in honoring veterans lost in combat, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. By the burial of an unknown soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery--located in Washington, D.C., Congress declared November 11 as a legal holiday.
In 1926, the holiday--still known as Armistice Day--was tapped as a recurring anniversary through a federal proclamation. But on May 13, 1938, Armistice Day on November 11 became a legal, federal holiday.
According to the U.S Army Center of Military History, the United States has no national holidays, in that each state can designate their own holidays. On the other hand, the federal government can choose holidays for federal employees and the District of Columbia, but in most instances, states will follow the federal government's holiday customs.
But as a result of World War II and the Korean War, the number of troops to be recognized for their service grew significantly. Thus, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation on June 1, 1954 that would change the holiday's name from Armistice Day to its current title, Veterans Day.
Other changes came to Veterans Day in 1968, when a move by Congress set the observance of the holiday to the fourth Monday in October. The legislation would also impact the holiday observances of Washington's birthday, Columbus Day and Memorial Day--as a means to give federal employees a three-day weekend while also boosting tourism and travel throughout the country.
However, when the legislation took effect two years later in 1971, confusion and disapproval ensued, with some states standing by the original celebration date of November 11. Other states tried out the new holiday observance, but eventually went back to the eleventh month.
On September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a bill that brought Veterans Day back to November 11--which would begin in 1978. Since that time, our nation continues to remember all veterans on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
From the federal side, a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on this day. Other states and cities hold parades or other celebrations, while unfortunately, the day has also been marked for department store sales or furniture savings deals.
Nevertheless, Veterans Day brings to mind those who served--in years past or years to come, those who came home or never did, and those who made sacrifices in days or war or days of peace--and to thank those men and women on November 11.
On the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a perfect summation is given for the purpose of focusing on the holiday. It's simply "a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good."