Today, November 11, is Veterans Day, a day on which we Americans honor our military veterans from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces for their service to our country. It is a day to honor those men and women who died in the service of their country and to pay tribute to all living veterans who served their country honorably during both war and peacetime.
But in addition to honoring our veterans, we should all pause to reflect upon why we celebrate Veterans Day on this particular day.
November 11, 2021, is the 103rd anniversary of the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allied forces, calling for the end of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, one of the most horrific wars ever fought on the face of the Earth.
The Armistice took effect at exactly 11:00 am GMT on November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918) officially ending all hostilities. World War I officially came to an end on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Originally called Armistice Day, November 11 was first commemorated in England on November 11, 1919—the first anniversary of the armistice—setting a trend for a day of remembrance for decades to come. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 calling for an annual observance of the end of the war, and November 11 became a national holiday in 1938.
The United States observed Armistice Day until 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday in the United States from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor veterans of all wars. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The new law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Gerald R. Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11 due to the important historical significance of that date.
World War I was often referred to as “The War to End All Wars,” because it was so destructive that the nations of the world wanted to prevent such a war from ever happening again. Unfortunately for the United States and much of the rest of the world, less than 21 years passed before an even greater and more devastating war began, only to be followed by the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, the Iraqi War, and many other smaller wars and military engagements.
Today there are over 16.1 million living veterans that served in at least one war and another six million veterans that served in peacetime. Sadly, there are no living veterans out of the 297,000 Americans that served in World I and only about 500,000 living veterans out of the 16.1 million Americans that served in World War II.
Over two million veterans served in the Korean War, over seven million veterans served in the Vietnam War, and over 5.5 million veterans served in the wars in the Middle East. An estimated 2.9 million of these veterans are currently receiving treatment and compensation for service-connected disabilities.
Over two million veterans are women. Three states have over one million veterans among their population: California (1.8 million), Texas (1.7 million), and Florida (1.6 million).
Approximately 1.34 million Americans (0.4% of the U.S. population) are currently serving on active duty in one of the five branches of the U.S. armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard). Another 450,000 are members of the reserve units of these branches.
On this Veterans Day won’t you please join me in honoring our veterans and remembering the sacrifices they and their families have made to protect our rights and our freedoms that we so often take for granted.
Remember: Freedom is not free—it must be fought for.
We must never falter in our efforts, or we will surely fail!