By John J. Kurash U.S. Army Military History InstituteNovember 6, 2007
Current soldiers share in common with former soldiers the experience of leaving home and being molded into someone steadfast and strong. The journey to become a soldier begins with courage. Once sworn into the Army, that individual will always be known, with pride, as an American Soldier.
We honor our veterans on Veterans Day, but it began as Armistice Day. November 11, 1918, at the Eleventh Hour, of the Eleventh Day, of the Eleventh Month, a cessation of World War I was signed, signifying the official end to fighting. It was declared that this was the "war was to end all wars." Sadly, we know now that wars do not end wars.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a), approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Congress amended the Act of 1938 by replacing "Armistice" with the word "Veterans". 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.
To observe Armistice Day in 1921, the American Unknown Soldier, symbolizing all the unknown dead, was chosen in an unusual way. Sergeant Edward F. Younger was provided a bouquet of white roses and four caskets from which to choose. After much thought, he reverently laid the roses on the second casket. Our brave soldier was brought home, to lie in state for three days, before being buried, along with the roses, in Arlington National Cemetery, forever to be known as the Unknown Soldier.
Images of our own hometown parade come to mind when we think of Veterans Day: old soldiers marching through our hometown, in what are now ill fitting uniforms, proud of their service and thankful they came home. This service by veterans to our country only has meaning if we understand and learn of the sacrifice soldiers endure daily on our behalf. What does this service or sacrifice mean' It means that our hometowns are protected; our loved ones are safe; our future is secure.
As you read this story, another future soldier has made the choice to serve and to be molded into an American Soldier, someone steadfast and strong. They walk a long, unbroken line with their ancestors and other soldiers of the past, to be joined by the soldier of the future, in a great tradition of service to our country. Honor your heroes on Veterans Day because they stand between you and our common enemy. That takes courage. Support our troops, so we may some day welcome them home, and watch them march through our hometowns, in ill fitting uniforms, proud in their stride, and proud to be a veteran on Veterans Day.