The Origins of Veterans
1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried
in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside
overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington,
became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.
ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where
an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor (in England, Westminster
Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe).
memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving
universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World
War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th
day of the 11th month). The day became known as “Armistice Day.”
Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through
a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday
12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic
hope had been realized that World War I was “the War to end all wars,” November
11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years
after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe.
Sixteen and one-half million Americans took part. Four hundred
seven thousand of them died in service, more than 292,000
Day Changed To Honor All Veterans
to the question of how to pay tribute to those who had served
in this latest, great war came in a proposal made by Representative
Edwin K. Rees of Kansas: Change Armistice Day to Veterans
Day, and make it an occasion to honor those who have served
America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed
a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.
Day 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were brought
from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown
soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the
other in the Korean War. In 1973, a law passed providing
interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but
none was found for several years. In 1984, an unknown serviceman
from that conflict was placed alongside the others.
these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives
in all wars, an Army honor guard, The 3d U.S. Infantry
(The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.
|A law passed in 1968 changed
the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday
in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November
11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore,
in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional
Held at Arlington
The focal point for official, national ceremonies for Veterans
Day continues to be the memorial amphitheater built around
the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined
color guard representing all military services executes “Present
Arms” at the tomb. The nation’s tribute to its
war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath.
The bugler plays “taps.” The rest of the ceremony
takes place in the amphitheater.
Day ceremonies at Arlington and elsewhere are coordinated
by the President’s
Veterans Day National Committee. Chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs,
the committee represents national veterans organizations.
of states and U.S. territories appoint Veterans Day chairpersons
who, in cooperation with the National Committee and the Department of Defense,
arrange and promote local ceremonies.