Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Veterans Day History

                    The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France, and brought World War I - "The Great War" - to an official close.  An "armistice" or temporary end of fighting between the Allied nations and Germany was effective on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - November 11, 1918.  World War I was supposed to be "the war to end all wars." 

                    In November 1919, President Woodruff Wilson declared Armistice Day to be November 11:  "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…."

                    November 11 became a legal holiday by Congressional Act on May 13, 1938.  The day was to be celebrated and known as "Armistice Day" and to be "dedicated to the cause of world peace."  Armistice Day was a special day to honor the veterans of World War I, but other wars caused different thinking.  The "greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation's history" took place in World War II, and aggression in Korea required more American forces.  On June 1, 1954, the Act of 1938 was amended:  "Armistice" was changed to "Veterans," and November 11th became a day to honor the veterans of all wars.

                    President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" on October 8, 1954:  "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…." 

On that same day, President Eisenhower designated Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs (VA) as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.  In 1958 the White House declared that this designation applied to all future VA Administrators.  Since the VA became a cabinet-level department in March 1989, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the chairman of the committee.

The purpose of the Uniform Holiday Bill, signed June 28, 1968, was to create more three-day weekends for Federal employees.  The law moved four national holidays to Mondays - Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day - in an effort to "encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production."  Some states did not agree with the law and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

There was much confusion on October 25, 1971, the first Veterans Day under the new law.  The historic and patriotic significance of November 11 as a day to honor veterans became very obvious.  President Gerald R. Ford signed a bill on September 20, 1975, to observe Veterans Day on November 11, starting in 1978.  I remember the confusion about Veterans Day during those years.  It seemed that no one really knew which day was Veterans Day!

Today Veterans Day is observed on November 11.  "The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of 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."

Information and quotes are from

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