(CNN Student News) -- On November 11, Americans pay tribute to everyone who has served in the U.S. military. But why was this particular date chosen, and how does this holiday differ from Memorial Day?
Origins of Veterans Day
World War I, also known as "The Great War," was fought from 1914 to 1918. During this conflict, Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the United States and other countries, which formed the "Allies," defeated the so-called "Central Powers," which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) and Bulgaria. On the "eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month" of 1918, German leaders signed an armistice, or a halt to hostilities, with the Allied powers. On that date, November 11, celebrations were held in New York City, Paris, London and in other cities around the globe. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 as "Armistice Day," a day to observe the end of World War I.
On June 4, 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution asking President Calvin Coolidge to call upon officials to "display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." Twelve years later, on May 13, 1938, Congress passed an Act making the 11th of November Armistice Day, a federal holiday.
Initially, Armistice Day was supposed to honor veterans of World War I. But after the call to arms and human sacrifices during World War II and the Korean conflict, veterans' groups urged Congress to consider a day to celebrate U.S. veterans of all wars. On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day
Veterans Day in the United States is a day to honor all Americans who have served in the U.S. military, both during wartime and in peace. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring Americans who have died serving the nation, especially those who died in battle or from wounds received during armed conflicts. On Veterans Day, Americans thank the living veterans for their service to the country and recognize all who have served the country.
Veterans Day Proclamation
The following is the text of President George W. Bush's 2008 Veterans Day Proclamation:
On Veterans Day, we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women who in defense of our freedom have bravely worn the uniform of the United States.
From the fields and forests of war-torn Europe to the jungles of Southeast Asia, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, brave patriots have protected our Nation's ideals, rescued millions from tyranny, and helped spread freedom around the globe. America's veterans answered the call when asked to protect our Nation from some of the most brutal and ruthless tyrants, terrorists, and militaries the world has ever known. They stood tall in the face of grave danger and enabled our Nation to become the greatest force for freedom in human history. Members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have answered a high calling to serve and have helped secure America at every turn.
Our country is forever indebted to our veterans for their quiet courage and exemplary service. We also remember and honor those who laid down their lives in freedom's defense. These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit. On Veterans Day, we remember these heroes for their valor, their loyalty, and their dedication. Their selfless sacrifices continue to inspire us today as we work to advance peace and extend freedom around the world.
With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor America's veterans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2008, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 9 through November 15, 2008, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Sources: U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs, Veterans Day, 2008: A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America