Cover Story: History of Veterans Day

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, nations around the world celebrated the silencing of the guns of World War I, which was referred to at that time as the Great War. After a devastatingly, bitter four-year war, an armistice was signed with the Imperial German Army. A year later our nation observed the first Armistice Day with parades, speeches and ceremonies in remembrance of the sacrifices that were made by the men and women who served our country during the war.

Twenty years after the war ended (1938), Congress voted to make Armistice Day a federal holiday. Although World War I had been called "the War to end all Wars," in 1939 that soon changed when every major power in the world at that time became involved in World War II. By the war’s end, 407,000 Americans had died in service, and more than 292,000 of them in battle.

After World War II and the Korean War, Congress passed a bill renaming the federal holiday to Veterans Day to honor those who have served America in all wars.

Veterans Day Today

As a result of the horrific events of Sept. 11, many of our nations’ armed-services personnel are now actively engaged in an ongoing war against terrorism. These American men and women in uniform are now selflessly and valiantly serving our country, as countless others have done before them.

Acknowledging the sacrifices of those who are now serving and have served our country in uniform, the following is a joint message from The Honorable Thomas E. White, Secretary of the Army, and General Eric K. Shinseki, army chief of staff, for all Army Activities and Army family members:

"Veterans Day 2001 — On November 11, our Nation pauses on Veterans Day to honor those American men and women who served our country in uniform. This year, two short months after suffering the most horrific act of war in our country’s history, it is only right that we pay tribute to those whose sacrifices and selfless service purchased for us the privileges of freedom, democracy and unmatched opportunity that we enjoy in the United States — the greatest country on earth. From the first battle of the American Revolution through our ongoing war against terrorism, in conflicts that shook the foundation of civilization and in humanitarian missions that saved countless lives, our veterans provided the sword and shield that protected our Nation.

Veterans Day also provides an opportunity for us to thank the soldiers serving in the Army today, continuing the great legacy of those veterans who marched before us. Your determination, your readiness and your willingness to go where you are needed, when you are needed, are potent symbols of liberty, justice and hope of freedom loving people the world over. The memory of our fallen comrades lost in the horrible and unprovoked acts of war against our Nation on September 11 is a stark reminder that our forces today are, as always, on point for our Nation.

Each day you serve, you voluntarily forego comfort and wealth. You face hardship and sacrifice in defending the Nation’s security and spreading the blessing of democracy to others in countries around the world, from Korea to Kosovo. Your actions in a multitude of missions — humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping, warfighting — animate the Army core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Your service ensures we never fail in our nonnegotiable contract with the American people — to fight and win our Nation’s wars. You constantly amaze us with the strength of your dedication and your unwavering morale.

To all of you, whether far from home or here in the United States, thank you for your contributions and your countless sacrifices. It is an honor to serve with you, and we could not be more proud of the great work you are doing. You carry on the legacy of valor and service that soldiers before you established.

And so on this day of reflection and tribute, our grateful Nation thanks our veterans — those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, those still serving, those no longer in uniform, young and old— for all they have done and continue to do for our great country. We pledge to you our tireless efforts to ensure that the Army remains the world’s preeminent warfighting land force, the most esteemed institution in the Nation and the most respected Army in the world."

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