A Brief History Of Veterans Day Observance

Veterans Day aptly defines itself. It is a national holiday in the United States to honor and recognize our soldiers, our pilots, and sailors for their service defending the freedoms of our nation. It is a “thank you” to those who served and to heroes who lost their lives protecting our country and families.

Historical Facts

Veterans who fought in World War I are often referred to as the “Greatest Generation” because World War I was called “The Great War.”  World War I was called The Great War because it was the bloodiest, most destructive, and extensive war involving more countries than ever before in history.

The official cessation of battles occurred on November 11, 1918.  A proclamation was voted on in Congress to make this date a day to display the United States flag on all government buildings.  This was a day of commemoration and remembrance of a victorious end of war.  It was originally known as Armistice Day.

Though originally created to honor veterans of World War I, Veterans Day now includes veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and veterans of all wars.

On June 1, 1954, the Armistice Day Act was approved to occur on November 11th (Public Law 380) and has remained a legal holiday ever since.

World War II was the greatest mobilization of United States troops in American history.  Dwight D. Eisenhower, a general in World War II who was later elected the 34th President of the United States, issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation:

“In order to insure proper and widespread observances of this anniversary, all veterans, veteran associations, and the entire citizenry will join hands in common purpose.  I am designating the Administrator of Veteran Affairs Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee to coordinate a national observance.”

Local Facts

Dwight D. Eisenhower lived in Lakewood, Washington briefly.

The largest Veterans Day observation takes place in Auburn, Washington.  It is an hour-and-a-half to two hours long, and has marching units from all branches of the armed forces.  Until last year there were two Pearl Harbor survivors in attendance.

Auburn’s Veterans Day celebration features a huge parade.  Soldiers in uniforms, bands, cadences, tanks, and aircraft, including a fly over, start the parade.  Flags are on every building, and are also waved by crowds along the parade route.  The street is lined with little kids sitting on parents’ shoulders, uniformed veterans in wheelchairs, and patriots.

The Veterans Day parade features marching Army soldier units, Air Force, Navy, and Marines.  Outside Auburn City Hall, leaders deliver speeches from a grandstand.

Auburn has a designated Veterans Park and a replica of the Viet Nam Wall.  People come from all over the state to participate in this remembrance.

International Facts

Other countries celebrate their veterans likewise in Canada and Australia, calling it “Remembrance Day.”  Similar to the United States, they wear red poppies, have parades, and display flags of their country.  All have two minutes of silence to honor those who gave their lives to the cause of service.

In Washington DC at the Arlington Cemetery, a wreath is laid before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honor of many veterans who never were returned to their country.  This is an annual ceremony led traditionally by the President of the United States, the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces.  This year, Vice President Kamala Harris presided.

Thank you, Veterans!