Initially, President Wilson proclaimed the day as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 to honor those who died in the first world war. That date commemorated the signing of the armistice between the World War I allies and Germany for the cessation of hostilities. That signing took place in France at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month".
At the urging of World War II veteran Raymond Weeks, known as the “Father of Veterans Day, Armistice Day was expanded to include all veterans, living and dead. In June 1954, Congress passed an act renaming Armistice Day as Veterans Day.
At the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, at precisely 11a.m., each November 11th, a color guard, made up of members from each of the military branches, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, renders honors to America's war dead during a solemn ceremony.
But America is not alone in celebrating its veterans. Known elsewhere in the world as Armistice Day, Poppy Day, or Remembrance day, it’s still a holiday celebrating the military dead in many allied nations. The First Official Armistice Day was held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace on the morning of November 11th 1919. France, Serbia, Belgium, India and New Zealand honor their war dead on November 11th as Armistice Day. In Canada, November 11th is known as Remembrance day. Italy holds its celebration on November 4th, a day known as Armistice of Villa Giusti. In Poland, November 11th is known as their Independence Day.
In several countries, a two-minute silence is held to remember their war dead at exactly 11a.m. on November 11th. In the United Kingdom, a formal day for the two-minute silence is held on Sunday, November 10th, a day known as Remembrance Sunday. The Armistice celebration follows on the next day.
Veterans Day is marked by speeches and parades featuring present day military units and living veterans from all the wars in which America sent troops to fight. But they didn’t all engage in combat. They kept the peace by being ready to fight. To borrow a line from the movie, A Few Good Men, many troops picked up a rifle and stood guard on a wall separating us from those who would take away our way of life. Because they did, in a place far away from home, we still enjoy freedom to travel, to speak our mind, and to live as we choose. Our veterans held up their end of the deal; let’s not dishonor them by not holding up our end.