Armistice Day to Veterans Day: Why the Change and What Does it Mean?

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It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. At that time in 1918, the Allies of World War I and Germany gathered to sign an armistice that promised to end the war on the Western Front. With those signatures and after years of fighting, it was time for the nations to heal while still remembering the service members who sacrificed their lives in The Great War, one of the world’s most intense and deadly conflicts.

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Countries around the world, including the United States, took up the mantle of remembrance by creating Armistice Day to commemorating that fateful day in Compiegne, France where the world leaders had convened to end the war. While the Allied nations created Armistice Day to honor those who fought in WWI, WWII and the Korean War followed soon after and the United States wanted a way to remember and recognize Veterans from all wars.

That desire caused President Dwight D. Eisenhower to official change Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954. Now, we have a day set aside to honor all Veterans who served and continue to serve the United States in wartime and in peace.  

After President Reagan later explained Eisenhower’s expansion of the focus of Veterans Day by reflecting,

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“I may be one of the few people in this room who remembers when Veterans Day was called Armistice Day, commemorating the armistice that ended the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918. And I might add, I not only remember when it was called that day, I guess we may be the only ones that were on the streets in the wild celebration of the first and actual Armistice Day when it was signed.

Armistice Day honored those who gave their lives in “the war to end all wars”— a day of hope that they had not given their lives in vain. But within a few years, and in spite of an impressive effort on the part of the Western democracies to limit arms and to outlaw war, aggressors rearmed and war came again. Ironically, Armistice Day was made a legal holiday in the United States in 1938, just 1 year before a second and more terrible conflagration swept across Europe.”

The United States of America is a young country but full of history—and especially full of a history of heroes who have protected its American Dream that allows us to retain our rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Veterans Day, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your service.