Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor those who have served in the military and to thank them for their dedication to our country. It seems to be an old tradition that most know began with the First World War. The path from then to now for Veterans Day, however, has taken some interesting turns!
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At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect. This is considered to be the true end of “the war to end all wars.” World War I was a devastating event that shook nations and their populations. The soldiers returning from this war were celebrated for their courage and selflessness. The end of the war would see informal celebrations and remembrances for years following that. Almost 20 years later, the government established November 11th as a legal holiday —a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” The day was primarily designed to honor WWI veterans.
In 1954, though, there was a push to make Veterans Day a celebration of those who also fought in WWII as well as Korea. Congress acted, and on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars by replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans.”
There was an interesting twist 34 years later. In 1968, Congress enacted the Uniform Holiday Bill . The bill was intended to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day. While the idea sounded good in Washington, many states did not agree with the change and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates. The change caused confusion, and it soon became apparent that the change was a mistake. In 1971, President Gerald R. Ford signed a new law that returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11th, beginning in 1978.
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Since that time, we have observed Veterans Day on November 11th, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. This return to the original date allows us to better honor the veterans who have served our country. On this day, you are encouraged to take a moment and personally thank a veteran. Platitudes and coupons are nice, but a sincere “Thank you for your service” is more meaningful than those outside the military can know.