By Bill Moore

We all look forward to Veterans Day and the time we get to spend with our families.  Many of our children and grandchildren no longer understand why we have the holiday.  They just understand that there is no school and their parents are usually home.  They need to understand what is Veteran’s Day and why it is important.

Let us start out by explaining the difference between Memorial Day in May and Veterans Day in November.  We have the Memorial Day celebration to remember and honor all members of the Military that made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives to protect this Nation and the people that live here. On the other hand, Veterans Day is a time for us to honor all individuals who have served this Nation in the Armed Forces.

Veterans Day traces its roots back to the First World War.  WWI was known as the “Great War” and officially ended on June 28th, 1919 in France with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.  However, a truce or armistice was put into effect at 11:00AM on the 11th day of November and this is generally regarded as the end of WWI.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as “Armistice Day.”  Initially it was designed to honor the men who died fighting in WWI.  The concept was to have parades or public meetings at 11AM to commemorate the event.  It was labeled “the War to end all Wars.”

On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  A year before an unidentified soldiers was laid to rest in Great Britain and in France.

It was not until June 4th, 1926 that Congress passed a resolution asking President Calvin Coolidge to require all Government buildings to display the Flag on November 11th and inviting all schools and churches to hold ceremonies honoring friendly relations with all other people.  Up to this point, 27 of our 48 states already had declared November 11th as a legal holiday.

In May 1938, an Act ( 52 Statute 351; 5 US Code, Sec 87a) was passed by Congress making November 11th each year a legal holiday called Armistice Day.  It was dedicated to the cause of world peace and honored Veterans of WWI.  

In 1954 Congress was urged by Veterans Associations to amend the 1938 Act and strike out the word “Armistice” and replace it with “Veterans”.  The United States had just finished fighting in World War II and Korea.  WWII was the greatest mobilization of troops in US history.  Veterans Groups wanted to extend the honor to all Veterans.  June 1st , 1954 Public Law 380 took effect and Armistice Day was now Veterans Day.  Then , President Eisenhower issued the 1st Veterans Day Proclamation.  He assigned his Administrator of Veterans Affairs to annually head a national committee to celebrate Veterans Day.  In 1989, the position was elevated to Cabinet level position and to this day the Secretary of Veterans Affairs remains responsible for Veterans Day activities.

In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was passed and signed into law by President Johnson.  This Bill allowed many legal Federal Holidays to be celebrated in such a way as to ensure 3 day weekends for Federal employees.  Columbus Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Veterans Day were all moved to a Monday to ensure the 3 day weekend for these Federal employees.  This took effect in 1971.  There was much confusion as many Veterans Groups and States felt November 11th was a date of both historical and patriotic significance.  Many states refused to move the date away from November 11th.  In September 1975, President Ford signed Public Law 94-97 and returned the Veterans Day celebrations to November 11th beginning in 1978.

To this date Veterans Day remains November 11th.  It is a time to honor all Veterans who served their Country and were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to its People.  Many celebrations are still held at 11AM on the 11th of November.  It is a time to remember our history and celebrate our Veterans.  As we celebrate this day, take the time to share the history of Veterans Day with your children and grandchildren and even neighbors.