U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945 during World War II. Photo: Joe Rosenthal / AP
The history of Veteran’s Day began with the armistice (the ceasing of fighting) signed at the end of World War I, which went into effect in 1918 on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The Veteran’s Day celebration started in 1919, when President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
President Wilson, when speaking of the commemoration proclamation, 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…”
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. The 11th of November became a legal holiday on May 13, 1938, by an Act of Congress. It was to be “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day began as a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after having fought in World War II and Korea, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by changing the word “Armistice” to “Veterans,” so November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.