Today is Veteran’s Day. And it’s a good time to reflect not only on service, but on how we as a nation have honored it.
Until relatively recently we really didn’t do such a good job of doing that as a nation. Historically, we did a decent job of remembering and honoring those who died – but not so much those who served and lived.
Veteran’s Day is actually one of the youngest US holidays. And it’s purpose was not always what we celebrate today.
In fact, what we today celebrate as Veteran’s Day on 11 November was not originally even called Veteran’s Day. It also was not originally a holiday to celebrate the service of all US military veterans.
In its original incarnation, it was Armistice Day. Its original purpose was to commemorate the “heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory” in World War I.
The holiday’s purpose, but not its name, was again changed in 1938 when Congress formally declared Armistice Day a Federal holiday. Now the purpose of the holiday was “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace”. The date remained fixed as 11 November.
The current Veteran’s Day owes its existence to one Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama. In 1945, Weeks – a World War II veteran – began a campaign to change the purpose of the holiday then called Armistice Day to a day honoring the service of all US military veterans. In 1954, Congress did so, and also changed the name of the holiday to “Veteran’s Day”. The date of 11 November was retained.
Weeks was honored by President Reagan in 1982 for being the driving force behind the creation of today’s Veteran’s Day. Reagan honored Weeks via presenting him the Presidential Citizenship Medal – the nation’s second-highest civilian decoration.
Veteran’s Day is one of the four US Federal holidays with a fixed date – 11 November. (The other three are New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Christmas. The other Federal holidays have fixed calendar slots – e.g., Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November – but not fixed dates.) Veteran’s Day is being observed this year on Monday solely due to the longstanding policy of observing a Federal holiday the preceding day (Friday) when a fixed-date holiday falls on a Saturday and the following day (Monday) when a fixed date holiday falls on a Sunday.
Best Veteran’s Day wishes to all of TAH’s readers. And special thanks to all Veterans who have served honorably.