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By Lia Blanchard

“Twenty-two million living Americans today have distinguished themselves by their service in uniform,” says the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki in his 2012 Veterans Day message. That’s about 10% of the population over age 20, and about 10% of those have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Beginnings

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, fighting officially ceased between nations embattled in World War I, known as the “war to end all wars.” Over 4.7 million Americans fought in WWI; and the last survivor, Frank Buckles, died only last year at the age of 110.

This photo was taken two minutes before the armistice went into effect, at a church in Stenay, Meuse in France, as soldiers of the 253rd infantry waited for the official time to arrive.

The Last Two Minutes of Fighting before Armistice

In 1954, following both the second World War and the Korean War, President Eisenhower changed the November 11 holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, and is now a holiday of remembrance and recognition of all who have served in the American military, regardless of era, branch, or duty status.

Modern observance

In addition to attending a public observance such as a parade or church service, an individual can observe Veterans Day in a traditional manner by flying the American flag at half mast or by observing two minutes of silence at 11am.

Our country currently struggles with its “middle-aged” status. We are no longer the virulent young worldwide force we once were; we’ve acquired our own problems, and work daily to resolve them. Today’s military does not fight the same type of battle as veterans of years past, but all of them deserve to be thanked and respected – every day.