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History of Veterans Day

The annual recognition of Veterans Day on November 11 goes back to 1919, when it was referred to as Armistice Day.

That day was the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I. The war concluded when an armistice, or a temporary cease of all aggressions, was implemented. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the holiday with these words:

"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 following year, both France and the United Kingdom observed services, on the same day, for those unknown who died in the war. A year later, the U.S. held a similar ceremony, as Congress approved legislation for a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to be placed in Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1926, Congress enacted a resolution, requesting the President to observe Armistice Day on an annual basis, which the President issued. In 1938, it became a legal Federal holiday, since the states retained the right to designate their own individual holidays.

On June 1, 1954, after both World War II and the Korean War produced millions of new war veterans, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

As part of the Fourth Monday Law established in 1968, Congress designated the observance of Veterans Day on the fourth Sunday of October. However, most states chose to acknowledge Veterans Day as it originally was on November 11. As a result, in 1975, Congress formally changed the Federal observation of Veterans Day to November 11, and it would take effect in 1978.

The National Veterans Day Ceremony takes place at Arlington National Cemetery every November 11 at 11:00am. Each of America's military services create a combined color guard and honors those who died in war by executing 'Present Arms' at the Tomb of the Unknowns, or those 'known but to God.' The President then lays a wreath at the tomb while 'Taps' is played by a bugler. The remainder of the ceremony takes place inside the Memorial Amphitheater.

Veterans Day is celebrated November 11.