Veterans Day: a Historical Perspective

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As Veterans Day approaches, it seems only fitting to look back at its rich history. Though the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 to end World War I, armed combat between the Allies and Germany had already ceased on November 11, 1918. The armistice, a temporary cessation of hostilities, went into effect at 11:00—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” (VA, 2015).President Woodrow Wilson commemorated Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, and it was designated a legal holiday twenty years later on May 13, 1938.

Armistice Day honored lives lost during World War I, but after so many more were lost during World War II and in Korea, the 83rd Congress changed the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954. On June 28, 1968, a new bill was coined to push Veterans Day to a Monday every year so federal employees could get another three-day weekend. This sparked much confusion and outrage with many citizens arguing that the change in the day only benefitted those who wanted another day off work instead of honoring more than 616,000 American soldiers fallen in the two world wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam.

Finally, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law redesignating November 11 as Veterans Day, starting in 1978. It stands in effect to this day to celebrate “America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good” (VA, 2015). So on this day we honor all who have served to thank them for their sacrifice, love, and dedication to America.