Today on Veterans Day, we pay tribute to all members of the Armed Forces who have dedicated their lives to protecting ours. Although the 2020 edition of Veterans Day lacks some pomp, as public celebrations across the country have been canceled due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the lack of parades and public ceremonies do not detract from the meaning of this special day.
Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War I, has been celebrated on Nov. 11 since that date in 1919. While Armistice Day originally paid tribute to our military members who died in World War I, it has since been expanded to include all veterans who served in all branches.
Below is President Woodrow Wilson's message to fellow Americans on Armistice Day, which was the beginnings of what we now call Veterans Day.
Address to fellow countrymen
The White House, Nov. 11, 1919
"A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.
With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.
Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.
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 nations."