On the the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the fighting ceased. The “Great War,” World War I. ended with an armistice, a temporary halt of the war, which was formally ended soon after with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
From that time forward, Americans and many countries around the world have observed that day in remembrance of those who died serving their country. The day was known for many years as Armistice Day.
Many remember it being called “Poppy Day” for the pin-on silk poppies sold by veterans’ organizations. I remember, as a little girl, my mom would give me a dime to donate so I could get a poppy pin. But the poppies were a symbol of something greater than a pin to wear on that day. They represented the poppies growing in a field that became the burial grounds for many American soldiers in Belgium during World War I. A field known as Flanders Field, a cemetery for America’s fallen heroes.
President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 as a holiday and stated, "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, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
In 1938, President Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation to make Armistice Day a legal holiday, saying it would be "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."
A World War II veteran, Raymond Weeks proposed an idea to General Dwight Eisenhower in 1945 that Armistice Day should honor all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. During Eisenhower’s presidential term, he signed a bill, which Congress passed, changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans’ Day, in 1954 and to honor all veterans.
In many parts of the world, two minutes of silence are observed at 11:00 a.m. to pay respect to those soldiers who died with the second minute dedicated to their surviving family members.
This year, make it your goal to not let the veterans in your family be forgotten. If you have not researched the veterans in your family and written their stories, research them now. Get their records. Tell their stories so that their descendants, their children, grandchildren, and other family members will know of them and what they did for their country. Instill pride in today’s and future generations of descendants of what their ancestors did to preserve freedom for them.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Let them never be forgotten.