Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11

Today we in the US celebrate Veteran's Day. It is a day of remembrance which officially ended WWI ("the war to end all wars," or the "Great War," as it was originally called) on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In the United States, it is known as Veterans Day. Other countries celebrate it as Armistice Day. It is a day dedicated to world peace.


(Photo courtesy of VA.gov, with the inscription "Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.")

Veterans Day was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. The day's observation included parades and public gatherings, as well as a brief pause in business activities at 11 a.m. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. As an aside, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest that same day at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The US Congress passed a resolution in 1926 calling the date as an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.

As I pointed out last year, some people get Veteran's Day confused with Memorial Day, I suspect because both involve our armed forces. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead. Services, parades, and such are especially designed to gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peace.


Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery (Photo from Wikimedia Commons, so please click to see the full photo)

Official national ceremonies for Veterans Day center around the Tomb of the Unknowns, sometimes called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. "To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, the 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil" (quoted from VA.gov). A soldier from each of the previous wars all the way through the Vietnam War were originally entombed there. However, with improved DNA testing, the Vietnam soldier was identified in 1998 and was disinterred and reburied by his family.


(Photo courtesy of VA.gov with the partial caption: "President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. ")

A brief visit to the web site of the Department of Veterans Affairs notes:
  • In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This was so veterans of WWII could be honored, too.
  • In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
  • Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day (sometimes referred to as Poppy Day), while 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 a.m. every November 11.
  • Although it is considered a National holiday, in actuality, there are no U.S. national holidays because the states retain the right to designate their own, and the government can only designate holidays for federal employees and for the District of Columbia. In practice, however, states almost always follow the federal lead.
(courtesy of the office of the Dept. of Veteran Affairs)


Poppies are often worn in the lapel on Veterans Day. As I pointed out last year, I remember my Grandfather (I was raised by my grandparents) always wore one. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons, so please click to see the full photo)

As a statistician, I found these figures interesting:
  • 4.7 million forces served in World War I (1914-1918).
  • 2.6 million veterans served during World War II (1941-1945).
  • 2.8 million veterans served during the Korean War (1950-1953).
  • 7.8 million veterans served during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975), which represents 33% of all living veterans.
  • 400,000 veterans served in the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991).
(courtesy of the US Census Bureau)

(2011 Veterans Day poster courtesy of VA.gov. Because this is a copied photo, please click to see the entire photo. Click here to see all the previous posters from 1978 to the present)

Every year the Department of Veterans Affairs issues a new poster commemorating this day. For the past two years, and now this year, I have shown the current poster on my blog.

I will leave you with this final quote, a bit of history I also noted above, that I found on VA.gov:
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Please don't forget that no matter how you say (or think) it, today is 11/11/11 in any and every country on earth. And enjoy your day, however you might spend it and please thank a Veteran for what s/he has done for you and your country, no matter which country you have visited from.

6 thoughtful remarks:

Marilyn Rock said...

A wonderful post, tribute and photos to go with it - thank you! xxoo

Halle said...

Thank you for this. Jacob just came home and said that he was to thank a veteran today...he's calling his Grandpa. :)

voodoo vixen said...

Lovely tribute to veterans everywhere Elizabeth.

Linda Manning Findley said...

I forget that not everyone knows about or why we have Veterans Day ... thanks for the capsule of history and helping others remember and understand .... Linda F

MaggieC said...

What a fantastic post, Elizabeth, with so many photos illustrating your busy life. I also hat all the electric cables, and some are hidden, but everything seems to need at least two cables each -2 printers, the computer with all its spaghetti, my new baby (the Cameo), the speaker wires for the computer, and the phone. Then there are the others that live in the drawer, like the heat gun. By the way, we still call it Armistice Day which is on the 11th day with a 2 minute silence at 11.00am. Then we have the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on the nearest Saturday and Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on the nearest Sunday, both with 2 minute silence, and very moving. Although it started with remembering World War 1, it also remembers those from World War 2 and all the conflicts since. There are Remembrance Services at churches all over the country.

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