Happy Veterans Day! One day is not enough to honor their service and sacrifice. Here’s how Veterans Day came to be.

Happy Veterans Day history of Veterans Day

U.S. Sailors march in New York City’s 2013 Veterans Day Parade. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Today we add our voices to the thousands who are honoring the service, courage and sacrifices of thousands of U.S. military veterans. In the past few weeks, we have participated in the #CountdowntoVeteransDay initiative, with posts highlighting veterans and records of their service. We did this because we agree with Dan Dayton, executive director of the WWI Centennial Commission that “one day is not enough to talk about veterans.”

Did you know that Veterans Day has been a tradition in the U.S. for nearly 100 years? But the first Veterans Day wasn’t called that. It was Armistice Day, which honored the end of fighting in World War I. “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory,” said U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

Armistice Day 1919

Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.

Unfortunately, WWI didn’t turn out to be “the war to end all wars,” as most people hoped.

“In 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word ‘Armistice’ and inserting in its place the word ‘Veterans,'” explains the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. “With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.”

Dan Dayton encourages us to observe Veterans Day meaningfully: “to volunteer for veterans-themed projects, to donate to organizations that support military veterans, to share pictures and stories of military service on social media.”

Flickr Creative Commons image, unaltered. Click to view image and license.

Flickr Creative Commons image (unaltered). Click to view image and license.

I would add another invitation: think of the veterans you know, and reach out to them–call, email or reach out on social media–and thank them. In my family, I thank my husband Bill, my son-in-law Ryan, and my Uncle Buzz for protecting our freedom through their military service.

Read More about Veteran’s Day and Military History here at Genealogy Gems:

Be a Hero! 4 Ways to Rescue Military Memories and Artifacts

Find Your Family History in WWII Yearbooks

Preserve the Memories of Combat Victims



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