In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced.
After four years of bitter war the Allied Powers signed a cease-fire armistice with Germany at Rethondes, France on November 11, bringing World War I to a close. The “war to end all wars,” as it was called, was over.
November 11, 1919 was set aside as Armistice Day in the United States in remembrance of the sacrifices that men and women made during World War I in their efforts to ensure a lasting peace.
Soldiers who survived the war marched parades through their hometowns. Politicians and veteran officers gave speeches and held ceremonies of thanks for the peace they had won.
Armistice Day officially received its name in the United States through a congressional resolution.
It became a national holiday 12 years later. Congress voted Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938, 20 years after the war ended. Americans realized, however, that the previous war would not be “the war to end all wars.” World War II began the following year and nations great and small once again participated in a bloody struggle.
At the end of World War II, Armistice Day continued to be observed on November 11.
In 1953, people in Emporia, Kansas called the holiday Veterans Day in gratitude to those veterans in their town. Soon after, Congress passed a bill introduced by a Kansas congressman, renaming the federal holiday to Veterans Day.
A year later, the United States designated November 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars. Americans continue to give thanks for those who gave their lives for their country.
There are ceremonies and speeches and at 11 in the morning, many Americans observe a moment of silence, remembering those who fought, and continue to fight, for peace.
After the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, the emphasis had shifted. There were fewer military parades and ceremonies. Veterans now gather at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. to place flowers and to hold a quiet vigil as the names of their friends and relatives who fell in Vietnam are read.
Veterans of military service have organized support groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. On Memorial Day, these groups raise funds for their charitable activities by selling paper poppies made by disabled veterans. The bright red wildflower became a symbol of World War I after a bloody battle in a field of poppies called Flanders Field in Belgium.
Earl Erickson, a Korean-era veteran, submitted this piece to The Northern Light.