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Thank You Veterans


Veterans Memorials throughout the United States

Origins and History of Veterans Day




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The Origins of Veterans Day


In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, became the focal point of reverence for Americaís veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nationís highest place of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as "Armistice Day."

 

Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was "the War to end all wars," November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe. Sixteen and one-half million Americans took part. Four hundred seven thousand of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.


Armistice Day Changed To Honor All Veterans

An answer to the question of how to pay tribute to those who had served in this latest, great war came in a proposal made by Representative Edwin K. Rees of Kansas: Change Armistice Day to Veterans Day, and make it an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

On Memorial Day 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1973, a law passed providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but none was found for several years. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from that conflict was placed alongside the others. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, The 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.

A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.


National Ceremonies Held at Arlington

The focal point for official, national ceremonies for Veterans Day continues to be the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes "Present Arms" at the tomb. The nationís tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath. The bugler plays "taps." The rest of the ceremony takes place in the amphitheater.

Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington and elsewhere are coordinated by the Presidentís Veterans Day National Committee. Chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the committee represents national veterans organizations.  

Governors of states and U.S. territories appoint Veterans Day chairpersons who, in cooperation with the National Committee and the Department of Defense, arrange and promote local ceremonies.



 

HISTORY OF VETERANS DAY

Official recognition of the end of the first modern global conflict -- World War I - - was made in a concurrent resolution (44 Stat. 1982) enacted by Congress on June 4, 1926, with these words:

WHEREAS the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most

destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the

resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with

other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

 

 

 

WHEREAS it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should

be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to

perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between

nations; and

WHEREAS the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already

declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: 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.


 

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, and

the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - - a day to be

dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and

known as "Armistice Day. "

 

 

 

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World

War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest

mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the Nation's

history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd

Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended

the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in

lieu thereof the word "Veterans. " With the approval of this legislation

(Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor

American veterans of all wars.

 

 

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower

issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation " which stated:

"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. Toward this

end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as

Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include

such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will

coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the

observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and

agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the

National Committee in every way possible."

 

A letter from the President to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley,

Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, was sent on the same date designating

him to serve as Chairman. In 1958, the White House advised the VA's

General Counsel that there was no need for another letter of appointment

for each new Administrator, as the original proclamation in 1954

established the Committee with the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as

Chairman. 

 

The Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on

June 28, 1968, and was intended to insure three-day weekends for Federal

employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays- -

Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It

was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel,

recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and

commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and

continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates. The first

Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on

October 25, 1971.

 

 

It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of

historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens,

and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public

Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of

Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.

This action supported the express will of the overwhelming majority of

the State legislatures, all major service organizations and the American people.


 

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.

For P. M. Release October 8, 1954
Murray Snyder, Assistant Press Secretary To The President

THE WHITE HOUSE OFFICE

Lowery Air Force Base
Denver

 

 

In connection with the signing of the proclamation on Veterans

Day, the President today sent the following letter to the Honorable

Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs:

Dear Mr. Higley:

I have today signed a proclamation calling upon all of our citizens to

observe Thursday, November 11, 1954 as Veterans Day. It is my earnest

hope that all veterans, their organizations, and the entire citizenry

will join hands to insure proper and widespread observance of this day.

 


With the thought that it will be most helpful to coordinate the planning,

I am suggesting the formation of a Veterans Day National Committee. In

view of your great personal interest as well as your official

responsibilities, I have designated you to serve as Chairman. You may

include in the Committee membership such other persons as you desire to

select and I am requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of

the Executive branch to assist the Committee in its work in every way

possible.

I have every confidence that our Nation will respond wholeheartedly in

the appropriate observance of Veterans Day, 1954.

 Sincerely,

 DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER


 

Veterans Day, 1954

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION  3071

Whereas it has long been our customs to commemorate November 11,

the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the

heroes of that tragic struggle and by rededicating ourselves to the cause

of peace; and

Whereas in the intervening years the United States has been

involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions

of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation; and

 

 

Whereas the Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4,

1926 (44 Stat. 1982), calling for the observance of November 11 with

appropriate ceremonies, and later provided in an act approved May 13,

1938 (52 Stat. 351) , that the eleventh of November should be a legal

holiday and should be known as Armistice Day; and

Whereas, in order to expand the significance of that

commemoration and in order that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate

homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to

the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved

June 1, 1954 (68 Stat. 168), changed the name of the holiday to Veterans

Day:

 

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the

United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to

observe Thursday, November 11, 1954, as Veterans Day. On that day let

us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly,

on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage

of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting

an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

I also direct the appropriate officials of the Government to arrange

for the display of the flag of the United States on all public buildings

on Veterans Day.

 

 

 

In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this

anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire

citizenry will wish to wish to join hands in the common purpose.

Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs

as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include

such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate

at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also

requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive

branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way

possible.

 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and cause the

seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this eighth day of October in the

Year of our Lord nineteen

hundred and fifty-four, and

of the Independence of the

(SEAL) United States of America the

one hundred and seventy-ninth.

 

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER 


By the President:

JOHN FOSTER DULLES
Secretary of States.




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Acknowledgements
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©Ruth Apperson Rous ~ © Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
© Georgia Women of Achievement
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