As expected, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a short and useful history of Veterans Day on its website.
To summarize, the holiday, which was previously known as “Armistice Day,” was first established after the First World War. It was only decades later, after Hitlerism had been defeated and the Third Reich destroyed, that an act of Congress signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower officially renamed the holiday “Veterans Day.”
It is therefore a day of commemoration and solemnity, one that specifically honors American service members who have answered their country's call in times of war.
For what it's worth, we’ve come a long way since the Vietnam generation came home unheralded and unappreciated. The tremendous outpouring of support for veterans today—and their families—is something we should all be proud of and grateful for. Countless veterans groups now exist in virtually every corner of the nation, providing financial and spiritual support to those who, in Lincoln’s immortal words, have “borne the battle” on our behalf. We therefore owe them our gratitude, our appreciation, and yes, our respect.
But we also owe them something else—namely, the responsibility of always remembering what they did.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful and moving video. But be forewarned: You may want to grab some tissues before watching it (via the Washington Free Beacon):