What Is the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

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History of Veterans Day

Although World War I formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, it was the cessation of fighting between the Allied forces and Germany at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, that came to symbolize the end of the Great War.

President Woodrow Wilson subsequently proclaimed the first “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, an occasion to be commemorated with parades and the temporary suspension of businesses at 11 a.m. By that time, the governors of six states had already declared the day a legal holiday.

Congress formally recognized the annual November 11 observance in 1926, and in 1938, Armistice Day became a legal U.S. holiday, dedicated to the promise of world peace.

Toward the end of the following decade, however, public sentiment toward the celebration of peace was shifting toward a recognition of the sacrifices made by the 16-plus million Americans who had participated in World War II. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the first official “National Veterans Day” event took place in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947.

The Uniform Holiday Bill of 1968 moved Veterans Day from November 11 to the fourth Monday in October. However, the change was met with resistance by traditionalists who considered the date to be inseparable from the rites of observance. Following congressional hearings to discuss the issue, President Gerald Ford in 1975 reinstated the holiday’s original date of November 11, effective 1978.

Famous Veterans Day Quotes

“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…” — Woodrow Wilson

“Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us.” — Ronald Reagan

“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” — Douglas MacArthur

Veterans Day Traditions

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What Is the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?