What exactly do we celebrate on November 11th every year? We mean to honor the brave men and women, living and dead, who have fought America’s battles, past and present. It was first celebrated as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of fighting between the Allies and Germany in World War I. A year later the president at the time, President Woodrow Wilson, proclaimed November 11th as day of “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service” and the “gratitude for victory.” Four years later, Wilson, no longer president, gave a national radio talk on the significance of Armistice Day, in which he deplored America’s failure to seize the opportunity that victory had provided: “The stimulating memories of that happy time of triumph are forever marred and embittered for us by the shameful fact that when victory was won—won be it remembered chiefly by the indomitable spirit and ungrudging sacrifices of our incomparable soldiers—we turned our backs upon our associates and refused to bear any responsible part in the administration of peace or the firm and permanent establishment of the results of war—won at so terrible a cost of life and treasure—and withdrew into a sullen and selfish isolation which is deeply ignoble because manifestly cowardly and dishonorable.” Wilson then argued that we gravely dishonor our soldiers if we reject or abandon the cause for which they fought and died—an issue that shadows our holiday today.
May 1938, Congress made November 11 a legal federal holiday, a day to be dedicated to world peace and to be celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Congress in 1954, It was changed to the holiday of “Veterans Day,” a day to honor American warriors of all wars, for their patriotism and the willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.