I know you have all heard of Veterans’ Day… but if you haven’t known, or lost, a veteran do you really understand what the day is about and why we all celebrate each year?? Well, neither did I till a few years ago. So, here is a little history of Veterans’ Day and how we celebrate each year.
What is Veterans’ Day??
Veterans Day is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans. A federal holiday, it is observed on November 11. It is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)
The holiday is commonly printed as Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day in calendars and advertisements. While these spellings are grammatically acceptable, the United States government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling.
How did it start?
The U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of 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 passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting that the President (Calvin Coolidge) issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
In 1953, an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner named Alfred King had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. King had been actively involved with the American War Dads during World War II. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into “All” Veterans Day. The Emporia Chamber of Commerce took up the cause after determining that 90% of Emporia merchants as well as the Board of Education supported closing their doors on November 11 to honor veterans. With the help of then-U.S. Rep. Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954.
Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with Veterans, and it has been known as Veterans Day since.
Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978 it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11. Since this change, there has been a trend against being closed on the holiday. It began with businesses (excluding banks) and in recent years some schools and local governments have also chosen to remain open.
How do we celebrate Veterans’ Day?
The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery . The ceremony commences precisely at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.
The Veterans Day National Committee also selects a number of regional sites for Veterans Day observances throughout the country. From stirring parades and ceremonies to military exhibits and tributes to distinguished veterans, these events serve as models for other communities to follow in planning their own observances.
So what are we doing in 2010??
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
November 11, 2010, 1 p.m. Constitution Avenue and Henry Bacon Dr. NW, Washington, DC. Color guard, speakers and a wreath-laying ceremony.
- Arlington National Cemetery
November 11, 2010, 11 a.m. Across the Potomac from Washington at the west end of the Memorial Bridge, Arlington, Virginia. (703) 607-8000 This is the national Veterans day service with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Seating in the amphitheater is limited, so visitors should plan to arrive at least a half hour before the ceremony.
- Vietnam Women’s Memorial
November 11, 2010, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. Constitution Avenue and Henry Bacon Drive, NW Washington, DC. (301) 314-8505. Vietnam-era veterans and the children of veterans tell stories “in their own voices” about their experiences.
- World War II Memorial
November 11, 2010, 9 a.m. 17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenues, NW Washington, DC. (202) 619-7222. Wreath laying ceremony.
- Navy Memorial
November 11, 2010, 1 p.m. 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC. (202)737-2300. The Naval District of Washington will lay a wreath, at the Lone Sailor Statue in commemoration of Veterans Day.
- Air Force Memorial
November 11, 2010, 11 a.m. One Air Force Memorial Drive, Arlington, VA. Wreath laying ceremony and a two-minute moment of silence will be observed to commemorate those members of the U.S. armed forces who were killed during war.
- Groundbreaking for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial
November 10, 2010, 10:30 a.m. Celebrate the beginning of construction of a new memorial honoring American veterans. The ceremony features award-winning actor Gary Sinise, the Memorial’s spokesperson, and Lois Pope and Arthur H. Wilson, co-founders of the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation.
- National Marine Corps Museum
November 10, 2010, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway, Triangle, Virginia. (800) 397-7585. Celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day with a ceremonial sword cake cutting.
- Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
November 11, 2010. Mount Vernon, Virginia. Special activities include a patriotic community concert by the all-veteran barbershop chorus at 11 a.m., at 2 p.m. wreathlaying at the tomb of our first commander-in-chief, George Washington, and “Martha Washington” talking about her work with veterans at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Little Theater. Active duty military personnel and veterans are admitted free-of-charge. The wreathlaying is included with regular Mount Vernon admission. The barbershop concert and Martha Washington program are free.
- Manassas Veterans Day Parade
November 6, 2010, 11 a.m. Manassas, Virginia. The community parade includes military and high school bands, pipe and drum corps teams, military units from the various Armed Services, military vehicles, and members from local veteran organizations.
If you have the day off today, consider taking some time to attend a Veterans’ Day ceremony to remember how the Vets have served our country. If you aren’t in an area where one of the events above are occuring, check with your local town to see if they have any Veterans’ Day events going on today that you may be able to attend.
No matter what you do today, I hope you all take some time to honor a Vet and remember the real reasons why we celebrate Veterans’ Day (other than just getting off of school or work…).