Veterans Day is a forgotten day for most Americans. Why? Probably because it’s not a 3-day weekend nobody knows – and few care about – the origin of. But being the history buffs we are, let’s look deeper into Veterans Day.
Originally called Armistice Day, the first observance was November 11, 1919. It commemorated the first anniversary of the armistice – the unofficial end – that stopped the fighting in World War I. Congress made it an annual observance in 1926 with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938, differing from Memorial Day in that it honors the living soldiers – as well as the deceased – who have served in times of war and peace. In 1954, after the end of WWII and the Korean War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veterans Day to include all veterans.
Note the lack of a possessive apostrophe in the name. That’s because it’s not a day that belongs to veterans. It’s a day to commemorate all veterans.
Oh, and we can thank President Gerald R. Ford that Veterans Day wasn’t made into just another 3-day weekend, another reason to BBQ and party. Congress moved it to the 4th Monday in October in 1971. President Ford, understanding its powerful significance in our history at the end of the Vietnam War, reversed that in 1975. Bless him.