World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
The observance of Armistice Day dates back to 1921 when an American soldier, his name known only to God, was buried on a Virginia hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the City of Washington. The burial site of this Unknown Soldier from World War I in Arlington Cemetery represented dignity and respect for America’s veterans.
Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, until World War II required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history. In 1945, a World War II veteran had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans.
Raymond Weeks of Birmingham Alabama, led a delegation to Washington, DC urging then-Army Chief of Staff General Dwight Eisenhower to create a national holiday that honored all veterans. In 1954, now-President Eisenhower signed legislation formally establishing November 11th as Veterans Day. In 1982, President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal as the driving force for the national holiday. Weeks led the first National Veterans Day Parade in 1947 in Alabama, and continued the tradition annually until his passing in 1985.