As Veterans Day falls on a Sunday in 2012, the Federal holiday is officially observed on Monday, November 12. As the nation heals from the recent elections and the East Coast is still reeling from the effects of hurricane Sandy, we must take time to thank those that serve in our armed forces. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, and the date was chosen for its symbolic significance, according to the National Geographic. “November 11 was intended to observe the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which marked the armistice of World War I”.
John Raughter, communications director for the “American Legion” says the first Armistice Day in the U.S. occurred on November 11, 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson declared that, “…to us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”
Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday by Congress nearly 20 years later, and in 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day. The reason was a nation-wide campaign to have the date honor all veterans, not just those who served in World War I.
In the United States, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday in October by an act of Congress in 1968. That was done to coincide with similar Federal holidays that afforded government employees a three-day weekend, such as Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day.
The change to Veterans Day though was resisted by many states and municipalities, and by 1978 the observance was rescheduled for it’s annual observance on November 11.
Veterans Day remains a related but unique holiday from Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May each year.
“Veterans Day is to honor and observe the sacrifices made by all veterans, whereas Memorial Day is to honor the fallen – those who have given their lives for the defense of this country,” said Raughter.
World War I, known at the time as “The Great War”, was officially ended by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. But history shows that combat ended seven months earlier when an armistice, or “temporary cessation of hostilities”, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
That is why November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars”. The inception for the celebration was for a day of observance with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. on that date, according to KVIA.
Currently, Veterans Day in the United States of America is marked by parades and remembrance events across the country. The American Legion’s Raughter believes that Veterans Day is, “a day to teach young people about the sacrifices made by their fathers and grandfathers, uncles and neighbors, and mothers and grandmothers”.
“It’s about making sure that when the children of today hear the history lessons and traditions of our great country, they know that it would not be possible without veterans”, Raughter said.
Take time out to thank a veteran you may know!