The “War to End all Wars” begat Veterans Day

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.” – Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

Dad in his Navy Uniform

My father, Richard “Dick” Thomas, 1945

Today is Veteran’s Day, which means government agencies, schools, banks and services (including mail delivery) will be closed or have modified hours.

It has also become the new “official” start of the holiday season where the almighty dollar is honored, and not the brave men and women who have served our country.

So what exactly is Veterans Day and how was it established?

World War I, known at the time as “The Great War” officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France.

However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when the Allies and Germany declared a truce (an armistice) 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.”

The following November, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

The original concept for the celebration was to pay tribute to all American veterans both living or dead, who served their country honorably, during both times of peace and war on November 11th. It was to be observed with parades and public meetings, and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 am.

Armistice Day was not officially passed by Congress as an annual observance until 1926, and made a legal holiday until 1938. It was meant to be a day to honor veterans of World War I. Unfortunately war broke out in Europe a few years later culminating in World War II. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11th as Veterans Day to honor veterans from WWI, WWII and the Korean War.

In 1968, the uniform Holidays Bill moved the celebration of this special holiday to the fourth Monday in October beginning in 1971.

It was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays that included Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities, and stimulate greater industrial commercial production.

This was not well received by the public, so on September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law returning Veterans Day to November 11th.

Restoring Veterans Day to November 11th not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but it helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day – “to celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Thank you to all the brave men and women who served our country. We owe you a great debt.

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