The History of Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

Pat Maurer

Monday marks the 100th anniversary of the first commemoration of Armistice Day, which is now Veterans Day.

To commemorate this day, November 11, 2019, I thought you, our readers, would enjoy sharing a brief history of Veterans Day and learn more about exactly why we celebrate this special holiday and honor all of those who have served our country.

On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued a message on the first “Armistice Day,” expressing what he felt the day meant to Americans.
His address commemorated the first anniversary of the end of World War I.

Some excerpts from his address included:
A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which …gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.

“The United States Congress adopted a resolution on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made November 11 in each year a legal holiday: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

In 1945, World War II Veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and continued that tradition annually until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the “Father of Veterans Day.”

President Eisenhower signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954, eight and a half years later.

Although the holiday to celebrate our veteran was schedule for November 11 every year, in accordance with the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” Veterans day was moved to the fourth Monday of October in 1971. In 1978 it was moved back to the original celebration on November 11th where it remains, although if the 11th falls on a Saturday or Sunday, organizations that formally observe the holiday will closed on Friday or Monday, respectively.

Because Veterans Day is a federal holiday, non-essential federal government offices are closed. No mail is delivered. All federal workers are paid for the holiday; those who are required to work on the holiday sometimes receive holiday pay for that day in addition to their wages.

Veterans Day is a time for us to remember and honor all those who serve and who have served, even to giving their lives to protect this great country and our way of life.

It is a day for remembering their sacrifices and for honoring all veterans.

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