If you look at an old American calendar from the late 1930s or early 40s, you will see November 11 marked as Armistice Day, not Veterans Day. Armistice Day was first celebrated on November 11, 1919 to mark the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Hostilities ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. A resolution for an annual observance was passed in Congress in 1926. November 11 became a national holiday in 1938.
By 1954, America had veterans of World War II and the Korean War and a day to honor only World War I veterans was outdated. Veterans service organizations petitioned for a change in name to honor all veterans. The 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938, changing the holiday’s name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, making it a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The holiday moved away from November 11 for a short time in the early 1970s. The Uniform Holiday Bill was passed in 1968 to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees by changing the date of certain holidays to a Monday. Washington’s Birthday was turned into President’s Day (eliminating the separate holiday honoring Abraham Lincoln ten days earlier). Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day were all part of the move. On September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law returning Veterans Day back to November 11 starting in 1978.
Many people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. While we remember deceased veterans on both days, Veterans day is the day set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served in the military in times of war and peace.
We often think of men serving in the military, especially at the beginning of the 20th century. But, women have been indispensable to armed forces for centuries. Many times, the women were soldiers’ wives. They served as cooks, nurses, and did the laundry. During World War I, women also formed organizations designed to provide relief to war-torn European countries (even before the U.S. entered the war in 1917). Women donned uniforms for the first time as they found themselves attached to various military and government agencies. It was a watershed moment for women and the arms of the military in which they served.
Today, we pause to offer our thanks to those who serve all of us in our country through their military service.
– Donna Klein