The History of Veterans’ Day

Because it’s Veterans’ Day today, this week on Hillier Ignite is Veterans’ Week — we’re focusing all week on news on veterans and the state of veterans’ affairs in the United States. Today, we’re looking at the history of the holiday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs calls Veterans Day:

 A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

In November of 1919, a year after the Allies and Germany agreed to stop fighting, and six months after the negotiations led to the Treaty of Versailles, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 “Armistice Day,” saying:

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…

On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution to officially recognize the day:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

In 1954, after the watershed of World War II, after American forces fought in Korea, veterans service organizations urged Congress to amend the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” After approving Public Law 380 on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

On October 8th of that year, President and former supreme commander of the Allied Forces Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” (we posted President Obama’s proclamation last week) which stated:

In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.

Happy Veterans’ Day!

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