In the United States, November 11 is Veterans Day (though the commemoration is transferred to November 10 if Veterans Day falls on Saturday and November 12 if it falls on Sunday). Originally known as Armistice Day, it is celebrated on November 11 to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I, which occurred on November 11, 1918. When President Woodrow Wilson announced the first commemoration of Armistice Day in 1919, he declared that
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 the nations.
In the wake of World War II, however, many people desired a way to honor not only the fallen of World War I but those who had died in World War II, and those who had fought in both wars but survived. Stephan Riod of Emporia, Kansas, led the campaign to transform Armistice Day into Veterans Day, and in 1954, Congress passed, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower (himself a veteran of World War II) signed, a bill to do just that.
While in recent years the celebration of Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) has taken on more of the aspects of Veterans Day, Memorial Day is meant to remember the fallen, while Veterans Day expresses our gratitude especially to those who survived, and indeed those who continue to serve in the Armed Forces. And so it is appropriate to commemorate this day through a Prayer for Those in the Armed Services, that God may strengthen their faith and protect them from the spiritual as well as physical dangers of serving their country.
(The gravestone of Joseph Witkowski, a veteran of World War I, in Saint Mary and Saint James Cemetery in Rockford, Illinois. Photo © Scott P. Richert)