World War I, sadly and mistakenly termed “the war to end all wars”, officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when a temporary cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following 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…”
Nineteen years later, on May 13, 1938, November 11 was made a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”
Armistice Day was intended to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking out “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Unlike Memorial Day—originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868 and observed on the final Monday in May—whose meaning has been somewhat skewed as the official start of summer, Veterans Day remains as a solemn reminder of the cost of war in terms of human suffering and loss of life.
Perhaps one day Mankind will learn to live in harmony; our survival as a species depends on it. Accepting diversity—regardless of color, religion, or culture—living in peace requires that we remember always the lives cut short, as well as those who served honorably and whose lives were touched in ways we cannot imagine, in their service to country. We salute you today and every day.
Photo Courtesy: History.com