By Jennifer R. Carnes
Every year on Nov. 11, my aunt and thousands of others just like her take time to participate in little patriotic events sponsored by the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign War posts throughout the United States.
To them, Veterans Day is more than an excuse to have a three-day weekend, it’s a chance to honor the men and women who served in the military and protected the very freedoms afforded by this country.
My aunt sells little American flags as a fundraiser for her local American Legion.
Like many Americans, men in my family have served in several branches of the military. My uncle Steve was in the Air Force, serving as an aviation mechanic at Edwards Air Force Base and at other bases in the world.
My uncle Richard served in the Navy aboard the USS Carl Vincent. My uncle Bernie was also in the Navy and served aboard the USS Saratoga at the tail end of the Vietnam War.
My uncle Mike was in the Army during Vietnam. Their older brother Ralph was also in the Army and served in Korea and Vietnam. My cousin Jeff is still in the Army. He is stationed at Camp David and serves with the President’s communication advance team.
Some of my other cousins have also served in the military, several of whom served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I’m very proud of my uncles and cousins.
I’m also very proud of the men and women in the Copper Corridor who have served in the military or who are still serving in the military. We try to honor those men and women with our “Service Salute” or “Lest We Forget” columns whenever a family member or friend updates the newspaper on the military person’s status.
Veterans Day is always celebrated on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month because that is when hostilities officially ended in 1918, World War I, the war to end all wars.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, but the end of the war was generally acknowledged seven months earlier when an armistice went into effect.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day.
“To us in America,” he said, “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 nations.”
Originally, Armistice Day was meant to be celebrated with parades, public meetings, and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. The day was declared an official legal holiday on June 4, 1926, when the U.S. Congress passed a concurrent resolution:
“Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
Congress passed an official Act on May 13, 1938 that required the day be dedicated to the cause of world peace. It was primarily set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II and the Korean Conflict, the eighty-third Congress amended the Act of 1938, striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.”
With its June 1, 1954 approval, the legislation ensured that Nov.11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The Uniform Holiday Bill, signed June 28, 1968, moved Veterans Day to a Monday, observed first with much confusion on Oct. 25, 1971.
The move was designed to give federal employees a three-day weekend. Other holidays, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Columbus Day, were also moved to Mondays (and continue to this day to be observed on that day).
However, in 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97, returning the annual observance of Veterans Day to Nov. 11.
Even though Veterans Day was officially celebrated on this past Sunday, please, take a moment to consider those men and women who have sacrificed and served for the common good. Moreover, if you know someone who is a veteran (or someone who is still serving) or if you happen to meet someone on the street, take a moment to say, “Thank you.”
Editor’s note: More information on the history of Veterans Day can be found online at www.va.gov/opa/vetsday.
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