Thursday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. It is a day for honoring all veterans who have served our country in war or peace, dead or alive.  It’s largely intended as a time to thank our living veterans for their sacrifices. It’s also appropriate to thank them for their services any other day of the year.

World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, but fighting actually ended when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This day was considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and called Armistice Day.  

In 1926, Congress officially recognized it as the end of the war, and it became an official holiday in 1938, primarily a day to honor World War I veterans.  

Then there was World War II and the Korean War, so with the urging of veteran service organizations, Congress amended the commemoration by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” for honoring American veterans of all wars.  

For a while Veterans Day’s date was changed, which confused everyone. Congress signed the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968, changing a few federal holidays, including Veterans Day, to be celebrated on a Monday. The bill set Veterans Day for the fourth Monday of October. The first Veterans Day under this bill was held on Oct. 25, 1971.

There was confusion about the change and many unhappy states continued to recognize Veterans Day as they always had – on Nov. 11.  Within a few years, it was apparent that most of the U.S. citizens wanted to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, so on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed another law which returned Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, starting in 1978.

Also, on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. our nation will conduct a National Salute. Churches, fire stations and others are asked to ring their bells or sound sirens 21 times followed by a moment of silence all across our country.  

Since 2015, numerous communities, churches, fire stations and civic and patriotic organizations have been doing this. This mirrors Title 36 United States Code (USC) § 145 (Veterans Day) which calls upon the president of the United States to issue a proclamation calling on people of the United States to observe two minutes of silence on Veterans Day in honor of the service and sacrifice of veterans throughout the history of the nation.  

The National Salute consists of three parts.

The first is: Opening – 21 count gun salute, church bells, police and fire department sirens, etc.

The second: Recognition – Great Silence for 2 minutes, the first minute for those who have already sacrificed and the second minute for those who will sacrifice in the future with their lives for our American way of life.  

This is a re-enactment of the respect shown by our country during the burial of the first unknown soldier in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921. On this day 100 years ago, President Harding asked for everyone in the United States to “pause from their accustomed occupations and labor” for a two-minute silence.  

Lastly: Ending – Taps – The sounding of Taps for one minute. This is a powerful 24-note bugle call for the international melody for “lights out” or final resting for decease soldiers.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, now a century old, is not just about World War I.  An Unknown from World War II and an Unknown from the Korean War were buried here on May 30, 1958.  

On May 28, 1984, the only Vietnam War Unknown was buried and laid at rest here for almost 14 years when the remains were removed and identified.

On Sept. 17, 1999, – National POW/MIA Recognition Day – the empty crypt was rededicated to honor all missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is about every individual who has ever served, or will ever serve, and America’s promise that they will never be forgotten.