Culture

To End All Wars: The History of Veterans Day

November 11, 2014
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©istockphoto/CatLane

©istockphoto/CatLane

On November 11th of every year we celebrate Veterans Day to honor all who have served in the Armed Forces. Originally called Armistice day, this upcoming holiday was first set aside to commemorate the end of World War I or “The war to end all wars” as it was known then.

The Armistice
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 which was the official end of World War I. Fighting actually ended the previous November, 1918 with the signing of an armistice, or cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany. This truce went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month making November 11th the recognized if not “official,” end of “The war to end all wars.”

The Proclamation
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in November 1919 that Nov 11th would thereafter be a day for the commemoration of Armistice Day. The plan was to hold parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00a.m.

Congress Gets Involved
While The U.S Congress officially recognized the end of WWI by passing a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926 that suggested commemorating Nov 11th as Armistice Day it wasn’t until May 13, 1938 that an act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec87a) was approved that made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday. Armistice Day was primarily set aside to honor veterans of World War I but the act was amended on June 1, 1954 by the 83rd Congress to honor American veterans of all wars by renaming it Veterans Day.

Why it’s Not a Three Day Weekend
Originally Veterans Day was included along with Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Columbus Day in the Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250) to insure 3-day weekends for Federal employees which were thought to encourage travel, recreation and economic stimulation. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed on October 25th, 1971 and caused confusion as some states elected to observe the traditional holiday, not the new one. The original date of this observance held great historic and patriotic significance to many Americans resulting in Gerald Ford’s signing of Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat 479) which returned Veteran’s Day to its original date of November 11th beginning in 1978.

Back to Nov 11th
Veterans Day is now observed on Nov 11th, no matter what day of the week on which it falls which means there is not always a three-day weekend involved. It is a Federal holiday though, so non-essential federal employees receive a day off with pay and there is no mail delivery that day as well. The day is celebrated with parades all over the country and many restaurants and fast food spots offer free meals to veterans. It is a day to celebrate all who have served, as opposed to Memorial Day which is for all who have died. It is one of the days for us all to fly our flags from our homes and businesses and remember all who have served.

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