One hundred years ago peace-loving people throughout the world commemorated the “War to End All Wars” by institutionalizing a holiday that morphed into Veterans Day in America.
World War I, as historians have named it, did not end all of the wars and in 20 years the nations of the earth faced the worst world war mankind has ever known.
Veterans Day was officially created in 1954 replacing the original holiday that was created in 1918. “Armistice Day” marked the historic event that officially ended the war in Europe that America had entered into a little more than a year earlier. An agreement was signed by the warring factions just as the morning clock was approaching the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Celebrations were held in the nation’s largest cities and old-timers would later recall where they were when they heard the news, much like we remember where we were on 9-11 or for the older folks, the day President Kennedy was killed. It became known worldwide as “Armistice Day” and many groups commemorated the ending of the violence with “Remembrance Day” activities that corresponded with the honoring of those who died and those who entered into harm’s way for the benefit of others.
In the United States, Congress officially changed the name of the holiday shortly after the Korean War ended. Canada and Australia observe “Remembrance Day” on November 11, and Great Britain observes “Remembrance Day” on the Sunday nearest to November 11. Armistice Day remains the name of the holiday in France and Belgium, and it has been a statutory holiday in Serbia since 2012. In Italy, the end of World War I is commemorated on 4 November, the day of the Armistice of Villa Giusti.
Native Americans honor veterans in a different way that helps them in returning home from the wars, particularly if you’re a Vietnam veteran. During a Powwow, the Indians parade in full dress while they conduct a ceremony involving feasting, singing and dancing. At the very end, they call for all veterans in the audience to join in their circle as they perform their final dance and come to a stop lining up to shake hands with each and every soldier, sailor, marine, airman and coast guard and quietly tell us “Welcome Home.”
(For a look at another vet story please see this, my all-time Favorite Veterans Day Tribute.)