Round-the-Globe Observance: Veterans Day and Armistice/Remembrance Day Celebrates Those Who Served in the Armed Forces
For almost a century, several countries around the world have set aside Nov. 11 as a day to thank and honor those who served honorably in the armed forces.
Americans celebrate Veterans Day on Wednesday, Nov. 11, while the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries remember their veterans with Armistice Day.
The day that honors troops dates back to World War I, also known as “The Great War.” Although that war ended June 28, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect. This momentous event occurred at 11 a.m., during the 11th day of the 11th month, which is why Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of the war.
World War I involved all the great powers in the world, assembling in two opposing alliances—the Allies and the Central Powers. The death toll for World War I is estimated to be 50 million-plus, making it the third-deadliest war on record.
In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11, 1919, the country’s first Armistice Day. The name was changed to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954, to honor veterans of all wars.
Today, it is filled with commemorative ceremonies and parades dedicated to honoring the troops for their service. Oftentimes, veterans will speak about their time in the military. Many retailers offer Veterans Day sales; and some restaurants provide veterans a free meal if they can show proof of their military status. Because most federal employees get the day off, there is no mail service.
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 21.8 million living American veterans.
The U.S. is not the only country commemorating its armed forces on Veterans Day. People in the United Kingdom observe Armistice Day and/or Remembrance Day, as do many of the 52 member Commonwealth countries that include Australia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Every year from late October up to Armistice Day, the Royal British Legion distributes 40 million red poppies that people don to commemorate those who served in the armed forces. The celebrations take place on two days: Remembrance Day and Armistice Day.
Remembrance Day occurs on the second Sunday of November and is a day to acknowledge those who have lost their lives protecting the United Kingdom. (It is similar to Memorial Day in the United States) The U.K. celebrates Armistice Day on Nov. 11 with a two-minute moment of silence observed at 11 a.m.
France celebrates Armistice Day on Nov. 11 and last year opened the new international memorial of Notre Dame de Lorette at Ablan Saint Nazaire, France. Known as a “Ring of Remembrance,” the bronzed, elliptically shaped war memorial includes the names of the approximate 580,000 men and women who died in northern France during World War I.
In Belgium, citizens celebrate with the Last Post Ceremony, which takes place at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. The Last Post is the name of a bugle call played by the British Army and other armies to mark the end of the day; and also used to remember fallen soldiers. The Belgians also release red poppies from the roof of Menin Gate.
Significance of Poppies
The red poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day because of the poem by Canadian soldier John McCrae, In Flanders Fields. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields in Flanders during World War I. Their brilliant red hue became a symbol for the blood spilled during the war.