In the United States, November 11th is recognized
as Veteran’s Day. What is Veteran’s Day? Why is it celebrated on November 11th?
In the early morning hours of November 11, 1918, the Allied Powers (France, Great Britain,
the United States, etc.) and Germany agreed to end the fighting during World War I. Later
that day, an official armistice (a ceasefire between warring parties) was signed. In fact,
the armistice was signed in Paris at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of
the 11th day of the 11th month). This date was almost instantly recognized
as being an important one. The following year (1919), many nations declared November 11
a national holiday. The day became known as Armistice Day and honored those who had died
during the war. Many nations still honor Armistice Day and
the focus of the holiday is placed on soldiers who have lost their lives (similar to the
American holiday of Memorial Day). There are several different traditions associated with
Armistice Day. For example, some nations still observe a moment of silence, usually for two
minutes, at 11:00 in the morning. The first minute is said to honor the millions who died
during World War I. The second minute is for the living who were also affected by the war
(wives, parents, and children). There are also significant ceremonies which
take place in South Africa and Australia, as both nations were profoundly impacted by
World War I. In South Africa, they observe the moment in darkness as well as silence.
In Australia, instead of 11:00 AM, they observe their moment of silence at 9:00 PM. This is
because at 9:00 PM in Australia, it is 11:00 AM in Paris.
In other nations, the nature and focus of the holiday changed after the conclusion of
World War II. At that point, Great Britain began referring to the day as Remembrance
Day. In America, the holiday became Veteran’s Day. However, in the United States, Veteran’s
Day has grown to recognize all of those who have served their country, whether living
or dead (and even honors those still serving). A World War II veteran, Raymond Weeks, was
the first to propose the notion of recognizing all veterans on this day. He approached Dwight
Eisenhower with the idea, and it was eventually presented as a bill before Congress. Veteran’s
Day was recognized as an official holiday on May 26, 1954. Today, Raymond Weeks is remembered
by some as “the Father of Veteran’s Day.” At first, Veteran’s Day continued to be celebrated
on November 11th. However, in 1971 it was briefly moved to the fourth Monday in October.
It remained on that day until 1978, when it was returned to the November 11th date.
Today, Veteran’s Day is recognized across the United States and is observed on the 11th
of November each year. Americans all over the country join with many others around the
world to honor those who have served in the military.