Veterans Day

We continue our exploration of U.S holidays. with Veterans Day. This will be a short one; there’s not a lot of waffling on having a holiday like there was with Flag Day and not a long trek to get where we are with competing holidays like with Memorial Day.

Here’s the short version of the evolution of Veterans Day:

• It began as Armistice Day, celebrating WWI veterans, on Nov. 11, 1919.
• In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day and made it a celebration of all veterans.
• In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill and moved it to the fourth Monday in October when the law went into effect in 1971.
• In 1975, President Ford moved it back to Nov. 11.

Not a whole lot of hemming-and-hawing over stuff — except now we know why most holidays give us a three-day weekend (or four-day weekend, in the case of Thanksgiving), but Veterans Day is the one day that can totally mess with your head.

Given the meaning, maybe it ought to.

Anyway, let’s look at the long(er) version.

From History Channel:

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

In Britain, two minutes of silence are observed at 11 a.m. on November 11 each year.

Here is President Wilson’s message to Americans declaring Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, per Wikipedia.

A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.

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 nations. outlines the differences between Veterans Day and Memorial Day:

Memorial Day honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime.

Veterans Day fact sheet from the VA »


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