Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday held on November 11. It is held to honor all American veterans, both living a dead. It is not to be confused with Memorial Day or Armed Forces Day, which are both separate events.
It coincides Armistice Day, the day which commemorates the end of World War I, which ended on the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month.
Other countries also honor military veterans on this day. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (held on the second Sunday of November).
One year after the First World War, Armistice Day was observed on November 11, 1919. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson made a speech paying tribute to those who fought in the war:
“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 nations.”
To commemorate the end of World War I the French and the British buried an ‘unknown soldier’ at the Arc de Triomphe and Westminster Abbey respectively.
In 1921 the US followed suit, burying the remains of a soldier whose name was ‘known but to God’. The grave overlooking Washington DC became known as the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’.
In 1926, during Calvin Coolidge’s presidency, the US Congress passed a resolution which put in place official ceremonies to observe November 11. In 1938 the day was made a national holiday.
In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, was influential in expanding Armistice day to celebrate all veterans, dead and alive, instead of more specifically remembering those who died in WWI.
President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954, which officially shaped Veterans Day into its current format.
There are many parades across the 50 states of America through the New York Veterans Day Parade is the largest. Over 25,000 people participate and it has been held since 1919.
There is a wreath-laying ceremony in Madison Square Park one hour before the parade The actual parade begins just after 11:00 in Manhattan.
There is an emotional part of the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, where members from each military branch pay their respects.
Most schools across America hold Veteran day activities throughout the week to pay tribute to the veterans.