Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day

With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, World War I (known as The Great War, to my grandmother’s generation) ended. However, actual fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice–or temporary cessation of hostilities,–between the Allies and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.

In November 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “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.”

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I –and Armistice Day became a US holiday– when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
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 1953, a shoe store owner from Emporia Kansas had the idea to expand the Armistice Day celebration to all veterans, not just those who served in WWI. He began to campaign to turn Armistice Day into “all” Veteran’s Day. The Emporia, KS Chamber of Commerce took up the cause and area merchants and the Board of Education began closing their doors on November 11 to honor all veterans. With the help of US Representative Dwight Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress and on May 26, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law.

On November 8, 1954, Congress amended the act, replacing “armistice” with Veterans. It has been known as Veteran’s Day ever since.

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