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What is Veterans Day?
- Lewis Smith -

Veterans Day is a special day for Americans. Unlike Memorial Day when we honor those who gave their lives for our country, today is a time to salute all veterans -- both living and dead-- and their sacrifices. Today should not be a day of sadness, but a time of pride and reflection on what veterans have accomplished and the freedoms they have protected.

Veterans Day Poster, 1997

Veterans Day has its origins shortly after World War I when an unknown American soldier killed on the battlefields of Europe was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Similar ceremonies had already taken place in England and France where they had buried an unknown soldier in places of honor. These memorial occasions all took place on November 11th -- recognizing the celebrated end of the fighting in World War I at 11 a.m. on that date: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
This day of remembrance and honor became known as Armistice Day and through Congressional action, it became a national holiday in 1938. But what had been intended as a remembrance of the  "War to end all wars" was soon obliterated by the outbreak of World War II -- a war in which 407,000 Americans lost their lives.

Following that war and Korea, Congress and President Eisenhower in 1954 enacted a bill proclaiming November 11th as Veterans Day.

The focal point for our national observance of Veterans Day continues to be at the memorial amphitheater at Arlington, built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 AM on November 11th a combined color guard representing all military services join in a tribute to all of the nation's war dead.

This solemn ceremony is mirrored throughout the nation and it is the special character of this day that we also honor the veterans who are still with us. They continue to serve as an example of service to their communities and nation.

- Lewis Smith -

1999

More about Veterans Day here...

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