Military History Monday: Veterans Day

AmericanFlagTomorrow is the day we celebrate and honor the service of our military veterans.  This week will feature one or two other articles which are Veterans Day-related.  Tomorrow’s Tombstone Tuesday article will honor both a veteran and a Native American Choctaw Code Talker serving in World War I (November is also National Native American Heritage Month), and Wednesday’s article will feature a story about an historic blizzard that happened to fall on Veterans (then called Armistice) Day.

But first, a little history.  It was first called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of “the war to end all wars”, World War I (how wrong we were).  The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, but fighting had actually ended on November 11, 1918.  That day signified a temporary halt to hostilities by the Allies and Germans at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Armsstice_1918To honor that precise day, Woodrow Wilson established the first Armistice Day in November of 1919 with a proclamation that read, in part:

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 the nations.

In keeping with the original suspension of  hostilities, the day was set aside for parades and speeches, with a brief suspension of business activity at 11:00 a.m. (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month).  On June 4, 1926 the United States Congress passed a resolution recognizing that exact time on November 11, 1918, recalling the war as “the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals”.

The resolution also asked President Calvin Coolidge to issue a proclamation to have flags flown at all government buildings around the country, as well as ceremonies and observances.  By that time, twenty-seven states had already declared the day a legal holiday.

Another act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) passed on May 13, 1938 legally made the day a national holiday, and officially called it “Armistice Day.”  For several years, the purpose of the day was to honor World War I veterans, but after World War II, and then the Korean War, it became necessary to expand the scope.

Congress amended the 1938 act and struck the word “Armistice” and replaced it with “Veterans”.  On June 1, 1954, November 11 became the day the United States would celebrate all of its veterans.

In the late 1960’s the holiday schedules were upended when Congress decided to align holidays like Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day so they would always be combined with a three-day weekend.  The legislation called the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed on June 28, 1968.  The government apparently thought this might stimulate the economy by encouraging travel (and, you know, all those special sales!).

There was a problem, however, as most states didn’t like the new schedule, especially the inclusion of Veterans Day.  They preferred, especially, to celebrate it on the original Armistice Day.  Add to that the confusion incurred in 1971 when the first “three-day Veterans Day weekend” was scheduled for October 25 – quite a bit early.  It wasn’t well received, and on September 20, 1975 President Gerald Ford returned the original date to the Veterans Day observation, scheduled to begin in 1978.

Today it doesn’t matter which day of the week Veterans Day falls on.  I think it best we don’t combine days like this with a three-day excuse to travel or shop – those are not really ways to best honor those who have served our country (IMHO).  Tomorrow is the day and I want to wish all veterans a blessed day – and THANK YOU SO MUCH for your service to our country!

P.S.  While I was researching and writing this story (and you may have noticed it too), I noticed how long it takes our government to act – go back and look at the time line – just sayin’.

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

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© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.

 

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