Veterans Day Short History Lesson
Veterans Day is Monday, November 11. Many of you have the day off from work or school. Banks are closed as is the US Postal Service, and most government buildings. What you may or may not realize is that it is just fortunate that the 11th happens to fall close to a weekend to give you the long weekend. Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11th. It originated as Armistice Day and marked the end of the hostilities of World War I that occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. So no matter if it is a Monday or a Thursday, November 11th is celebrated as the official Veterans Day holiday.
While many realize Veterans Day is a day to honor our Veterans, few realize the historical significance behind the day. Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day and marked the end of hostilities of World War I that occurred at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. Therefore, the day is always recognized on November 11th, regardless of the day of the week the 11th falls on. Many remembrances take place at 11am on the 11th.
In 1919, President Wilson commemorated the first Armistice Day with these words:
“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 1938, it was made a legal federal holiday for all.
After World War II and the Korean War, Congress recognized that Veterans Day needed to also include all of our Veterans and not just those of World War I. The term “Armistice” was replaced with the term “Veterans” to accomplish this task.
However, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress recognized a need to expand the meaning of the day to recognize all of our Veterans and not just those of World War I.
In 1954, the word “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” as a way to formally include all Veterans of all American wars in the day of remembrance.
Today, Veterans Day is a federal holiday which many cities celebrate with parades and ceremonies.
In Washington, D.C., there are ceremonies throughout the city including a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery.
Veterans Day is a day not only to remember those who died in service to our country, but also to recognize those who continue to serve today.
My father was a proud World War II veteran who served in the US Army Air Corps, which was the forerunner of the Air Force. He told me so many stories about his missions all over the world and the fact that he was one of the only men from his group who made it home. I had the fortunate experience of visiting the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio and was able to see actual planes like my dad would have flown in. He was the “radio man” and would be listening for enemy messages as they flew. In doing this, the airwaves would be jammed many times, which would cause him to lose his hearing for days and even sometimes weeks.
I hope you are able to participate in a Veterans Day activity in your area. Many communities will hold ceremonies to honor all of our veterans. If you know of someone who is serving our country or who did, thank them for what they have done. We are able to live free because of their service to our country. I wish my dad was still here to tell me one more war story and for me to tell him thank you for his service.
For more information on Veterans Day, check out http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp