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The History of Veterans Day

The roots of our present-day observance of the holiday known as “Veterans Day” goes back to 1918, when on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice ending what was then the bloodiest war in human history, “The Great War” or World War I, was declared. According to the website

The roots of our present-day observance of the holiday known as “Veterans Day” goes back to 1918, when on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice ending what was then the bloodiest war in human history, “The Great War” or World War I, was declared. According to the website of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, 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 the nations” The original concept for the celebration was for the suspension of business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., with the day also marked by parades and public meetings.

Congressional legislation in May 1938 made the 11th of November each year a legal holiday — a day dedicated to the cause of world peace and thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I.

A shoe store owner from Emporia, Kansas, is responsible for the change from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Alvin King had been actively involved in the American War Dads during World War II. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into “All” Veterans Day. The Emporia Chamber of Commerce took up the cause after determining that 90% of Emporia merchants, as well as the Board of Education, supported closing their doors on November 11, 1953, to honor veterans. With the help of then-U.S. Rep. Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954. Congress amended the act on November 8, 1954, changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

The holiday was originally scheduled to be every November 11 but was altered in 1971 by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that moved the holiday to the fourth Monday in October.

Traditionalists and veteran groups never liked this revision. They lobbied hard to have the holiday put back to November 11, and beginning in 1978; the holiday was moved back to its original date of November 11, which we continue to observe today. The move back to the traditional date helps to preserve the historical importance of the date but also serves as a reminder of all that we owe to veterans, both past and present.