Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and took place on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, which was when the armistice that ended World War I took effect. Armistice Day was first celebrated in 1919 at the direction of President Wilson. The original idea was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a time of silence at 11 a.m., the hour of day the armistice took effect, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs history of the holiday.
“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,” Wilson said at the time.
Congress in 1926 passed a concurrent resolution that set aside Nov. 11 as a commemoration of World War I’s end. At the time, lawmakers directed that the day should involve thanksgiving and prayer and “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” In 1938, Congress passed another measure that made Armistice Day an official legal holiday. It was primarily for World War I veterans, and the cause of furthering world peace.
Then World War II intervened, followed by the conflict in Korea. Something more inclusive seemed appropriate. In 1954, Congress struck the word “Armistice” from its previous law and inserted in its place “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first presidential Veterans Day proclamation, saying that the US was expanding the scope of the holiday and that it was now a time for all Americans to “solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly … to preserve our heritage of freedom.”
Veteran’s Day had a few hiccups, changing to a date in October and then back to the original date, but today it is still recognized at the same day it was recognized originally: 11/11. Personally, I like the idea of Veteran’s day being a day to perpetuate peace and thanksgiving. Perhaps, I’ll keep that in mind the next time I feel road rage from a crazy driver. Perhaps.
Thank you to Peter Grier’s article from the DC Decoder, found here.
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