Happy Veterans Day
A Brief History of the Holiday’s Observance
November 11, 2015 by Jake Butler
Do you know why we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11? The history of the holiday dates all the way back to the end of World War I. Although the war didn't officially end until June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, an armistice months earlier swiftly ended hostile combat. That time is known as the eleventh hour – coming on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, which is why November 11, 1918, is often cited as the end of The Great War.
It was President Woodrow Wilson the following year who proclaimed November 11 an official day of recognition, called Armistice Day at the time. Here's how he commemorated his proclamation: "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.”
Congress was next to get involved, first passing a resolution on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to outline appropriate ceremonies for Armistice Day. These included parades, public meetings, and a brief suspension of business at 11:00 a.m in observance of the eleventh hour. It would later become a legal holiday on May 13, 1938, when Congress declared it “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.”
Ambitions of world peace didn't exactly pan out, as America would soon become involved in World War II. The next development happened in 1945 when a veteran from Birmingham, Alabama, named Raymond Weeks had the idea to extend the holiday to celebrate all veterans, in addition to those who died in World War I. He was a pioneer for the holiday and celebrated it passionately until his death in 1985. His conviction earned him the admiration of President Ronald Reagan, who dubbed him “the father of Veterans Day.”
Almost a decade later, U.S. Representative Ed Reeds pushed a bill through Congress to replace “Armistice” with “Veterans” and make it an official federal holiday. That bill was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954, and we've been celebrating Veterans Day ever since (although the date was briefly changed and then later restored in the '70s).
Its observance on November 11 carries great historical significance. Veterans Day is a chance to celebrate our country's veterans for their patriotism, perseverance, and valor, and thank them for the sacrifices they've made to uphold the liberties and freedoms so many of us take for granted every day. Be sure to tell the veterans in your life how much it means. We hope you have a safe and happy Veterans Day!