The History of Veterans Day
World War I ended on the eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour in 1918. On 4-JUN 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the “recurring anniversary of 11-NOV 1918 should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations,” and that the president should issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of Armistice Day.
American efforts during World War II saw the greatest mobilization of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force in the nation’s history. More than 16 million men and women served in WW II and about 5.7 million more served in the Korean War.
In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, striking the word “Armistice” in favor of “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on 1-JUN 1954. From then on, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The next development in the story of Veterans Day unfolded in 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which sought to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees and encourage tourism and travel by celebrating four national holidays; Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day on Mondays. The observation of Veterans Day was set as the fourth Monday in October.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was Monday, 25-OCT 1971; confusion ensued, as many states disapproved of this change, and continued to observe the holiday on its original date.
In 1975, after it became evident that the actual date of Veterans Day carried historical and patriotic significance to many Americans, President Gerald Ford signed a new law returning the observation of Veterans Day to November 11th beginning in 1978. If November 11th falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the federal government observes the holiday on the previous Friday or following Monday, respectively. Government offices are closed on Veterans Day.
Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World War I and II on or near November 11th. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11th.
In the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day – a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
God Bless Our Veterans!