November 11th is Veterans’ Day in the United States. On this day, Americans, along with many other people across the globe, honor those who served their country in uniform, both in times of war and peace.
The observance is rooted in the First World War. The nearly four-and-a-half-year conflict truly did span the world. It was fought in Asia and in Africa, on scattered islands in the Pacific, beneath and on the waters off Europe and South America, as well as on the battlefields of Europe. In those days, it was often called "the Great War”, or “The war to end all wars."
After four years of warfare, an Armistice, or end of hostilities, went into effect one hour before noon on November 11, 1918; that is, the fighting stopped on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. And even though the First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, the public considered November 11, 1918, to be the end of the conflict.
One year later, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 to be the first commemoration of Armistice Day. It was a day of parades and public gatherings, and at 11 a.m., everyone paused in their activities in a show of respect for those who had fought. Today, most of the countries that were involved in the First World War still commemorate this day.
But in time other wars followed, and in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower expanded the holiday to honor all who have served in uniform, both in war and peace.
At its core, though, Veterans Day isn't about war. It commemorates no battlefield victory or defeat; it celebrates no advancement of political or territorial ambition. Rather, it's a day of remembrance, and like similar holidays in Great Britain, Canada, South Africa and other nations, the day honors military veterans for their service and sacrifice.