The Origin Of Veterans Day

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Topeka, Kan. (WIBW) - November 11th marks Veterans Day to honor those who have served our country.

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, became the focal point of reverence for America's veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred in England and France, where and unknown soldier was buried in each nation's highest place on honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These memorial gestures all too place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War 1 fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as "Armistice Day".

Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was "the War to end all Wars," November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke in Europe. 16,500,000 Americans took part. 407,000 of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.

Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans on WW II and Korea, Congress was requested to make this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

On Memorial day, 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1973, a law passed providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam Ward, but none was found for several years. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from that conflict was place alongside the others. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, as Army honor guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.

A law passed in 1968 changing that national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.

The focal point for official, national ceremonies for Veterans Day continues to be the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes "Present Arms" at the tomb. The nation's tribute to its war dead is symbolized by laying of a presidential wreath. The bugles plays "taps". The rest of the ceremony takes place in the amphitheater.

Every year the President of the United States urges All Americans to honor the commitment of our Veterans through appropriate public ceremonies.

Facts about Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
-His gloves are wet to he does not lose his grip on the rifle
-He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb.
-The guards are changed every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
-The guard must stand between 5'10" and 6'2" and his waist size must be no bigger than 30".
-The guard takes 21 steps during his walk across the tomb. It alludes to the 21 gun salute.
-The guard also hesitates for 21 seconds after his about face to begin his return walk.
-The guards cannot drink any alcohol or swear in public for the rest of their lives.
-They must also commit two years to guard the tomb and live in the barracks underneath it.
-They must not disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way.
-The first six months that a guard is on duty, he cannot talk to anyone or watch television. Anytime away from the tomb is spent studying the 175 people who are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
-They have very thick soled shoes to keep the heat and cold from their feet. They also have metal heal plates to make the loud clicking sound as they come to a halt.