November 2021 is Veterans Day, a federal holiday that honors and celebrates the service of America’s military veterans.
November 11th was originally called Armistice Day in recognition of the armistice (a formal agreement to stop fighting) signed between the Allies of World War I. In June of 1954, Congress renamed the holiday Veterans Day in recognition of all persons who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The annual event is observed with speeches, parades and church services around the country. The American flag is typically hung at half-mast.
In 2016, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act by unanimous consent. It directs the President of the United States to issue an annual proclamation for the United States to observe two minutes of silence on Veterans Day starting at 2:11 PM EST, allowing all 50 states to participate at the same time.
This year’s Veterans Day theme commemorates the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia. The white-marble Tomb was dedicated 100 years ago on November 11, 1921 with the burial of an unknown servicemember from World War I. It stands on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
More About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
A sad fact of war is that there are often deceased soldiers whose remains cannot be identified. Before the Civil War, the unidentified dead were buried in mass graves. During the Civil War, which lasted for four years from 1861 to 1865, soldiers killed in battle were usually buried along marching routes. On July 17, 1862, the U.S. Congress passed an act to create military burial places (national cemeteries) and soldiers’ lots. An estimated 620,000 soldiers lost their lives during the Civil War. Despite the growth of the national cemetery system to over 73 sites by 1873, it is believed that almost half of all the soldiers that died during the war were never identified.
During WWI, America and its allies lost approximately 6 million military service members. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1920, instead of repatriating (returning home) their deceased soldiers, Great Britain buried an Unknown Warrior inside London’s Westminster Abbey and France buried an Unknown Soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. American families were given the option of having the remains of their loved one transported anywhere in the United States or buried at a U.S. military cemetery in Europe.
Legislation establishing America’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was proposed by Hamilton Fish lll, a New York Congressman and WWI veteran, on December 21, 1920. The joint resolution provided “for the bringing to the United States of the body of an unknown American, who was a member of the American Expeditionary Forces, who served in Europe and lost his life during the World War, and for the burial of the remains with the appropriate ceremonies.” The unknown American soldier was to represent no “section, creed, or race in the late war and who typifies, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead.”
On November 11, 1921, the Unknown Soldier was carried by horse-draw caisson (a horse-drawn cart originally used to carry ammunition during military battles) through Washington D.C. and across the Potomac River. Following a ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery, the Unknown Soldier was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In later years, the Tomb became the final resting place for unknown soldiers from World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War. It is currently protected 24 hours a day by members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard).
The Tomb is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel. On the front, three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. On the back there is an inscription that reads “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
Each year the President (or designee) places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans and Memorial Day.
Here is this year’s Presidential Veterans Day proclamation:
A Proclamation on National Veterans and Military Families Month, 2021
OCTOBER 29. 2021
America has the greatest Armed Forces in the history of the world. To those who serve and those that serve alongside them — their families and caregivers — we owe a debt we can never fully repay. During National Veterans and Military Families Month, we recognize and thank them for their indispensable contributions and immeasurable sacrifices in support of our national security. As we approach this season of thanksgiving, we send our gratitude to millions of service members, veterans, military families, caregivers, and survivors who have served and continue to serve our Nation. I have said many times, and it comes from my heart — we as a Nation have a sacred obligation to properly equip and prepare our troops when we send them in to harm’s way and to support them and their families, both while they are deployed and when they return home.
The First Lady and I know that it is not only the person who wears the uniform serving our country but also their families who make enormous sacrifices for our Nation. As the poet John Milton wrote, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” We understand the feelings of pride, uncertainty, and fear when a loved one is deployed. Every morning, you wake up and say that extra prayer for them.
Our veteran and military families do so much and ask for little. They are strong and adaptable, changing course to accommodate the needs of our country, often foregoing personal wishes. They are capable and proud, holding down the home front during their loved one’s deployments, coping through their absence and the risk of danger, and helping them readjust when they come home.
These families and their Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Guardians, and Coast Guardsmen, are simply the best America has to offer. When they do not have what they need to thrive, it is not only individuals who suffer. If service members are worried that their spouse is struggling to keep food on the table or that their child is having a hard time at school, it is harder to focus on their mission. That is why supporting military families is a national security imperative.
Since the earliest days of my Administration, we have been committed to a whole-of-government approach to responding to the real-time needs of our military and veteran families. Through Joining Forces, the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors, my Administration is addressing military spouse employment and entrepreneurship, military child education, and family health and well-being. The First Lady has met with our Nation’s military and veteran families, caregivers, survivors, and advocates to learn how we can better support and prioritize their needs. Those discussions help inform the efforts across the Government to share data, create innovative solutions, and implement evidence-based programs and policies. In September, Joining Forces and the National Security Council released a report outlining the first round of Administration-wide commitments and proposals for supporting military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors. We are committed to continuing these efforts because we must, and we will, honor our sacred obligation to support our military and veteran families and ensure they receive the resources they need to thrive.
Throughout November, we show our appreciation to the spouses, partners, children, caregivers, and survivors of our service members and veterans for their selfless sacrifice on behalf of the Nation. We honor them and their invaluable contributions; we share their pride in our Armed Forces; and we will never forget what they and their loved ones do for us.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2021 as National Veterans and Military Families Month. I call upon the people of the United States to honor veterans and military families with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.