Did You Know? – Veteran’s Day

Joann Wolwowicz

 Last Thursday, students may have noticed a special ceremony going on in the Maxcy quad. Who could have missed the cannon that sounded during that time? For those who may not have known what the ceremony was for, last Thursday was Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

 On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I. The day was commemorated as Armistice Day, beginning the following year. November 11 became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

 Let’s look at a little bit more history about Armistice Day, before we jump into Veterans Day. The Treaty of Versailles was actually signed on June 28, 1919, but to most people, November 11 remained the date that marked the end of the Great War in the public’s eyes. In November 1918, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The day was observed with parades and public gatherings, as well as a brief pause in business activities at 11 a.m. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. Congress declared the day a legal federal holiday in honor of all those who participated in the war.

 On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918 should be commemorated with thanksgiving, prayer, and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations. By that time, 27 state legislatures had made November 11 a legal holiday. An act approved May 13, 1938 made November 11 a legal Federal holiday, officially known as Armistice Day.

 In World War II, there was the greatest mobilization of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force in the nation’s history. In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, striking the word “Armistice” in favor of “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

 In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which sought to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees and hoped to encourage tourism and travel by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. The observation of Veterans Day was set as the fourth Monday in October, which was October 25, 1971. Confusion ensued, especially since many states disapproved of this change and continued to observe the holiday on its original date. In 1975, when Congress finally realized that the actual date of Veterans Day carried historical and patriotic significance to many Americans, President Gerald Ford signed a new law returning the observation of Veterans Day to November 11, beginning in 1978. If November 11 should fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the federal government observes the holiday on the previous Friday or following Monday, respectively.

 Various versions of Veterans Day are celebrated around the world. Britain, France, Australia, and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday, which is the second Sunday in November. In Europe, Britain, and the Commonwealth countries, it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.

 In the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.