As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
November 11, 2011 – 11/11/11 – marks the commemoration of Veterans Day. How did Veterans Day come about?
The conflict known as “The Great War” ended officially when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles However, the actual fighting in this conflict had stopped more than seven months earlier when an armistice, or a temporary cessation of hostilities, between the two opposing sides –the Allied nations and Germany– went into effect. That armistice occurred on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
The following year, President Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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…”
Further legislation in 1926 created the day as a legal holiday. In 1954, in part to commemorate the service of all the brave veterans who had served in World War II, the name was officially changed to Veterans Day. For a brief period of time in the 1970s, Veterans Day was observed as a moveable holiday, celebrated on the closest Monday, but in 1978, Veterans Day celebrations were returned to November 11, in order to preserve the legacy and historical importance of that date. Since then, November 11 serves to help focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
On Veterans Day, especially, Special Collections and Archives is proud to be the home of many archival collections pertaining to the significant work and legacy of veterans of many conflicts, and we hope that you will take some time to learn about the collections available for research: