DARKE COUNTY — Wednesday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, a holiday established by the federal government to recognize the service of U.S. military veterans, both living and dead.
The purpose of Veterans Day is often confused with that of Memorial Day, a holiday which is observed on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day recognizes the sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines who died in the service of their country.
Veterans Day, as we know it today, was not always called as such. It was originally called “Armistice Day.”
The holiday saw its birth in 1919, a year following the end of World War I, or as it was called by many then, “The War to End All Wars.”
The German Empire had signed an armistice with the Allies (Great Britain, France, United States, among others) on Nov. 18, 1918, marking the end of open hostilities in a war that had lasted more than four years and cost the lives of more than 116,000 American military personnel, 53,402 of whom died in combat. Another 204,000 were wounded.
President Woodrow Wilson, in setting aside Nov. 11, said, “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.”
According to the Veterans Administration Office of Public Affairs, the original concept for the Armistice Day celebration was for “a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.”
Nearly 20 years later, in 1938, Congress officially declared Armistice Day a legal, federal holiday.
Though Armistice Day had been established to honor those who fought in World War I, America’s entry into the Second World War in 1941, and its subsequent entry into the Korean Conflict of 1950-1953, gave impetus for Armistice Day to be transformed into something bigger.
On June 1, 1954, Congress struck the word “Armistice” from the act, and replaced it with the word “Veterans,” thereby making it a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The commemoration hit a snag, however, in 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Bill, which sought to standardize the celebration of four holidays (Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day) on Mondays, to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees.
As it pertained to Veterans Day, particularly, the move was not popular among many veterans and their families, as the Nov. 11 date still held historic significance to them.
In response, Congress, in 1975, enacted legislation returning Veterans Day to its original Nov. 11 date, beginning in 1978. Upon signing the bill, President Gerald Ford said, in part:
“This action supports the expressed will of the overwhelming majority of our State legislatures, all major veterans service organizations, and many individuals.”
“Under a law enacted in 1968, the fourth Monday in October was designated for the observance of Veterans Day. Since that law took effect, it has become apparent that the commemoration of this day on November 11 is a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens. It is a practice deeply and firmly rooted in our customs and traditions. Americans have appreciated and wish to retain the historic significance of November 11 as the day set aside each year by a grateful nation to remember and honor those, living and dead, who fought to win and preserve our freedom.”
“I believe restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 will help preserve in the hearts and lives of all Americans the spirit of patriotism, the love of country, and the willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good symbolized by this very special day.”
The Daily Advocate staff wishes a Happy Veterans Day to those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and as well to those currently serving.
Erik Martin may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.