America has been celebrating Veterans Day on Nov. 11 since 1919, one year to the day after an armistice was signed that effectively ended “The Great War.”
The war officially ended June 28, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. The following November, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
Today we refer to that war – “The War to End All Wars” – as World War I. And Armistice Day is now Veterans Day, a day the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes as a “celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
On the campus of the University of St. Thomas, for 26 years cadets of Air Force ROTC Detachment 410 have honored veterans, and POWs and MIAs, with a 24-hour vigil, marching slowly, silently, and solemnly back and forth past the flagpole in the lower quad in remembrance of those who have served and those who never came home.
This year’s vigil was held from late Saturday to late Sunday, Nov. 10-11.
The vigil is sponsored by the St. Thomas-based Richard E. Fleming Squadron of the Arnold Air Society, a professional and service organization. St. Thomas has had an Air Force ROTC detachment since 1948 – the year after the Air Force was created.
Editor’s note: A little-known memorial to Word War I veterans is located at the western end of Summit Avenue in St. Paul, adjacent to the university’s School of Divinity campus, overlooking the Mississippi River.