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A Short History Lesson on Veterans Day

The First World War was known as “the war to end all wars” and was a war with a large social and political impact on the world, even still today. Many men fought in the war, and while the United States entered the war late and suffered the fewest casualties of all of the participating nations, the number of casualties the U.S. suffered was about 116,000.

The official end of the war was November 11, 1918. At the one-year anniversary, President Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919, to be “Armistice Day.” This was the first nationwide commemoration of the First World War.

On November 11, 1920, the countries of England and France held ceremonies to commemorate the war, such as laying to rest unknown soldiers. The following year, the United States did the same by relocating an unknown U.S. soldier from his grave in Europe into the current day Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. The casket was placed into the tomb at exactly 11:00 am on the morning of the 11th of November, 1920. President Harding requested that all flags be flown at half-mast to commemorate the day and the great loss of life of the soldiers who fought in the war.

The United States took the unknown soldier to mean both the losses we faced as a country, as well as each American’s loss and sacrifices in war. Because of this, in the years that followed, many states adopted laws declaring November 11th as a legal holiday.

On June 4, 1926, the United States Congress enacted a resolution asking the president to issue a proclamation to display the national flag on all buildings on November 11th. The resolution again named the day “Armistice Day.” On May 13, 1938, Congress enacted a new law which made the day a national holiday.

In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, a “Veterans Day” parade was held in Alabama on November 11th. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill into law officially changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

In the years that have followed, three more soldiers have been interred into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C.

Each year the current President of the United States visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and places a wreath while “Taps” is played. It is very popular for towns and cities to have Veterans Day parades to honor those among their communities who have either lost a loved one to war or who have a loved one currently serving in the armed services.

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