Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day was first celebrated in 1918 to recognize the end of World War I, which ended when the U.S. signed the armistice, or peace agreement, with Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
After the first Armistice Day, the U.S. used Nov. 11 as an annual day to remember those that served our country in the Great War.
In 1945, people in the U.S. started including in their Nov. 11 celebrations the remembrance of members of our armed forces that served in World War II.
In 1954, by an act of Congress and with President Dwight Eisenhower’s signature, Nov. 11 became an official federal holiday to remember all veterans and the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day.
You may have to be old, or at least as old as I am, to remember the fight to keep Veterans Day on the 11th of November.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act awarded federal employees with universal three-day weekends for federal holidays by moving them to Mondays beginning in 1971.
George Washington probably didn’t care that his birthday party was changed to the third Monday in February. After all, it was the second time his birthday had changed. Born on Feb. 11, 1731 under the Julian calendar. Washington’s birthday became Feb. 22 when the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752.
The Monday Holiday Act changed Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. (Side note here: Can you imagine what would happen if the fourth Monday in October fell on the last day of the month, and Veterans Day and Halloween landed on the same day?)
Nevertheless, unlike Washington’s birthday, Nov. 11 was a significant date. The day has meaning.
Veteran’s lobbied to return Veterans Day to the 11th day of the 11th month. Eventually they were successful. In 1975 Congress passed an act returning Veterans Day to its traditional day, effective with the 1978 calendar.
I am not a veteran. I turned 18 in 1975 as the Vietnam War came to a close, but there are several veterans in my family, past and present.
On Veterans Day, as I thank all veterans, my thoughts turn to the veterans in my family.Many that I have never met.
My grandfather on my father’s side was a combat medic in World War II. He came home alive and well. He was proud, as he should have been, of his service. He was active in the American Legion and an organization known as “40 and 8.” I never met him. He died at the age of 53 before I was born from a heart attack while taking a nap on his couch after mowing his lawn. (Maybe that’s why I don’t like mowing my lawn.)
On my mother’s side, my great-grandfather registered for the draft for World War I when my grandmother was 11 years old. He served from 1917 to 1918 and came home. He died while working on his farm in Melrose, Idaho in 1920 from Spanish flu.
I have two uncles that served in Vietnam and a cousin that recently retired from an honorable military career, including tours abroad during some of our more recent conflicts.
On Veterans Day we honor and remember the brave men and women who have worn a military uniform in service of their, and our, country.
These are the people that have pledged to lay down their lives if needed for the protection of our lives and our liberties.
Whether you served on the battle’s front or elsewhere, your sacrifice and service has not gone unnoticed. On this day, regardless of rank, we salute you, our veterans.