Veterans Day is a holiday held every 11 November to honor all military personnel who have served in the U.S. armed forces. Veterans Day was originally called “Armistice Day,” and the date was chosen to commemorate the signing of the armistice with Germany that ended hostilities during World War I.
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The armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, however it did not officially end that war. The official end came on 28 June 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. On the other hand, since the U.S. never signed the Treaty of Versailles like the other Allies, one could say that, for the U.S. at least, the 11 November armistice really did end the war.
In the immediate years after Armistice Day, the focus of the celebrations was on the veterans of World War I. However, the day was always meant to honor all veterans of foreign wars who risked their lives on the battle field to secure the freedoms of all Americans.
In 1926 Congress finally decided to declare that World War I was over. It was odd for this recognition of an existing reality to come seven years late. But without the U.S. agreeing to the Treaty of Versailles, there had been no official end to the war. Congress also expressed a desire for 11 November to be a legal holiday, following the lead of 27 states to have already done so. Congress called for the holiday to be a day of prayer and thanksgiving and expressed a desire that the U.S. flag be on display during this day and that special ceremonies be held.
Armistice Day finally became a permanent, official public holiday in 1938. Eerily enough, the holiday designed to honor World War I veterans became official only a few years before World War II arrived.
Over time, particularly once World War II was fought (and then the Korean and Vietnam wars), the focus on the 1918 Armistice was lost and the name of the holiday was changed. Additionally, Veterans Day is generally regarded today as honoring all those who ever served in the U.S. Armed Force rather than only those who actually fought in a war.
The next stage in the history of Veterans Day came in 1954, when it received its present name. Congress made the change when pressed to do so by various private veterans organizations.