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Dear Veterans, Thank You.

Expressing deep thanks for the brave service of all veterans

November 11th is Veterans Day, marked each year as a federal holiday in the U.S., to honor all war veterans. This is our day, our week, to say thank you for their service, courage, and dedication. It is a time of both remembrance and celebration, as ceremonies across the nation bring us together with memory, thanks, and respect for every servant of our armed forces.

Veterans Day has its origins in the ceasefire that called an end to the World War I fighting on the Western Front. On November 11th, 1918 the Allied nations and Germany signed an armistice at Compiegne, France. This agreement for truce and peace took effect at 11:00 am––“on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

WWI formally concluded later, at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. But President Wilson recognized November 11th as the real day the war came to an end. He proclaimed it as such in November of 1919, with suspension of all business and school activities for a moment of silence at 11:00 am.

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution that “the recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918 should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” In 1938, it was made a legal federal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”

With both mourning and hope, people saw World War I as “the war to end all wars,” but of course it was not. WWII followed, and the Korean War after that. In the wake of impassioned lobbying from veterans’ groups, Congress amended the 1938 national holiday act to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans.” In 1954, President Eisenhower signed this legislation. From that point forward, November 11th honored all U.S. veterans of all wars.

The Veterans Day National Ceremony takes place every November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery. It is, though, deliberately distinguished from Memorial Day. Veterans Day honors not only those who perished in national armed forces service, but all who have ever served in any capacity, during war or peacetime, both the dead and the living. The observance begins in silence at 11:00 am. A wreath is placed lovingly at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then, the parade of veterans’ organizations begins, with color and music and dignity.

For more on the history of Veterans Day, read here and here.

Veterans Day is our special time of commemoration in the United States.  We note, though, that the November 11th armistice is also honored in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Australia, and Canada. People of those countries also observe silence at 11:00 am local time on or near November 11th––followed by grand parades. Those nations lost untold numbers of soldiers in World War I, just as we did in the U.S. November 11th is a somber day of reflection across countries, cultures, and political lines. It is also a time of happiness and celebration that an unprecedented war of many nations did come to an end. We offer our deeply felt gratitude to all veterans of war. In any language, a sincere “thank you” says so much.

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