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The Significance of Veterans Day

Charles Hopkins, veterans, and other attendees at unveiling of Kearny's gravesite statue

Veterans Day is observed in the United States each year on November 11 in remembrance of those who fought in wars for America and its citizens.

The first Veterans Day was observed as "Armistice Day" in 1921 when an unknown World War I American soldier was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, the highest place of honor in our country. As similar burials of an unknown soldier also occurred at the highest places of honor on November 11 in England (Westminster Abbey) and France (Arc de Triomphe), these events became universally recognized for symbolically marking the end of World War I (since the fighting had ceased at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).

In 1926, Armistice Day became the official name for this day that was proclaimed a national holiday 12 years later. However, a few years thereafter, World War II erupted in Europe, shattering the idealistic belief that World War I had been "the War to end all Wars." The concept of this national holiday thus evolved to become one that honored all veterans who served America in all wars, and on November 11, 1954 this day was officially renamed Veterans Day.

Each year on Veterans Day, ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery. At the Tomb of the Unknowns, a national tribute to the war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath, and by the bugler playing "taps."

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Photo taken during the unveiling of the Kearny statue at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1914. President Woodrow Wilson and New Jersey Governor James Fielder are pictured here with dignitaries; the general's descendants; and veterans of Kearny's New Jersey Brigade, including Charles Hopkins (foreground, center) who was responsible for the erection of this equestrian monument. Image care of The Andersonville Diary & Memoirs of Charles Hopkins, edited by William Styple, (New Jersey: Belle Grove Publishing Co., 1988).

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