On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be "filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory". In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving.
On May 13, 1938, an act was approved which made November 11 in each year a legal holiday, known as Armistice Day. This day was originally intended to honor veterans of World War I.
In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day.
Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day.
Spelling of Veterans Day
While the holiday is commonly written as Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day (spellings that are grammatically acceptable), the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website states that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling "because it is not a day that 'belongs' to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans."
Celebrating Veterans Day Around the World
Britain, France, Australia and Canada commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m. every November 11.
In the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or because of injuries incurred during battle. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.