By Jan White
In November 1919, after World War I, known at that time as “the Great War,” ended, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as “Armistice Day,” stating “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 opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
The concept was to celebrate the day with parades and public meetings, with a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. In 1938, the day was declared a legal holiday dedicated to honoring veterans of World War I. But in 1954, after seeing the most significant mobilization of soldiers, Marines, and airmen in the nation’s history during World War II, and after the conflict in Korea, the 83rd Congress amended the word “Armistice” and inserted the word “Veterans” in its place, to honor all veterans.
On October 8, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a Veteran’s Day Proclamation that stated, “In order to ensure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”
Unlike other Federal holidays which fall under the Uniform Holiday Act of 1968, requiring Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day to be celebrated on Mondays, Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the day but helps focus attention on the essential purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
To read more about celebrating our Veterans locally, check out the special Veterans Day section of this week’s Courier.