Veterans Day began in 1919 under President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day, a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I . But it wasn’t until 1938 that Armistice Day became an official American holiday.
Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954 as a way to honor veterans of all wars, not just World War I.
Thursday the United States celebrates the nearly 3 million veterans who have served their country with a mix of parades, solemn ceremonies and other events.
One of the most notable observations is the national ceremony held each Nov. 11 at Arlington National Cemetery . This ceremony honors and thanks all people who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Beginning at 11 a.m., the ceremony includes the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Next is a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries, held inside the Memorial Amphitheater.
If you can’t be at Arlington, several regional sites are selected for Veterans Day observances around the United States. These events can include military exhibits, parades and tributes to veterans. Communities are encouraged to hold similar observances in their cities and towns.
“America’s sons and daughters have not watched over her shores or her citizens for public recognition, fanfare, or parades,” President Barack Obama said in his 2010 Veterans Day Proclamation .
“They have preserved our way of life with unwavering patriotism and quiet courage, and ours is a debt of honor to care for them and their families. These obligations do not end after their time of service, and we must fulfill our sacred trust to care for our veterans after they retire their uniforms.
“As a grateful nation, we are humbled by the sacrifices rendered by our service members and their families out of the deepest sense of service and love of country. On Veterans Day, let us remember our solemn obligations to our veterans, and recommit to upholding the enduring principles that our country lives for, and that our fellow citizens have fought and died for.”