Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry in France wait for the end of hostilities at 10:58 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans Day is celebrated this year on 11/11/11, the first time that has occurred. Originally called Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, the holiday was established to commemorate the formal end of hostilities of “The Great War,” “The War to End All Wars,” or World War I as it is now commonly called. After the signing of an armistice by representatives of the German Empire, hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, the 11th month in the year 1918. Throughout the European theatre, American and other allied troops waited for their signal to celebrate (see the archival photo that accompanies this article).

In November 1919, after the signing of the formal Treaty of Versailles, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. In 1926, the United States Congress in formally recognizing the end of World War I said in a resolution, “It is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” In 1938 an act of Congress made Nov. 11 each year a legal holiday. In 1954 following World War II, an even greater confrontation, and after the Korean conflict, Congress renamed the holiday “Veterans Day,” to remember American servicemen and women who gave their lives and to honor veterans and show appreciation for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

American military casualties, dead and wounded, in all wars fought by the United States, total nearly two and a half million with nearly 40,000 classified as missing. The War to End all wars didn’t. And, as we wind down a war in Iraq, we continue the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan.

On Veterans Day there are many to honor, many to respect, many to remember.

In Idyllwild, American Legion Post 800, commanded by retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant Ron Draper, begins its observance at 11 a.m. with taps played by Cid Castillo, former U.S. Navy 3rd Class Petty Officer. There will be a speech by Dave Fraser, Vietnam vet and helicopter pilot, and a reading by Julia Zacker of her high school composition of what Veterans Day means to her and her family. After Legion ceremonies, the post will host a luncheon provided by the Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary.

Idyllwild School will honor the memory of veterans with a patriotic barbecue with participation by Post 800 members.

On Friday, government offices, including the post office will be closed, as will banks, schools and county offices. The bond market closes but the stock market remains open.