Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary marking the end of World War I. The war officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II and American forces had fought aggression in Korea, Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars.
As of 2014, there were 19.3 million veterans in the United States, 1.6 million of which are female. According to U.S. Census data, 7.0 million of those veterans served in the Vietnam War; 5.5 million served during the Gulf War era (representing service from August 1990 to present); 1.1 million served in World War II; 2.0 million served in the Korean War; and 4.4 million served in peacetime only.
Veterans Day honors military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation. A national ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.