WHY DO WE HAVE VETERANS DAY? by Cheryl Pierson

united-states-flag_2188_130213397[1]I know this year Veterans Day fell on Friday, the 11th of November–the actual day of the holiday. But did you know that if it falls on a Sunday, it’s celebrated on Monday, and if it falls on a Saturday, it’s celebrated on Friday?  So, that being said, since we are “in the ballpark”, I couldn’t let this day go by without talking about the meaning of Veterans Day and how it came to be in our country. When I was a young child, I remember asking my parents about Veterans Day–but my mom always called it “Armistice Day”. When she told me the story about “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”, it always seemed like a magical spell–and maybe that’s what the world hoped it would be–the war to end all wars had already been fought, and so there wouldn’t be anymore. But there were.

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

The Last Two Minutes of FightingSoldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect. It’s called “THE LAST TWO MINUTES OF FIGHTING”.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of 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…”

(WWI SCOTTISH PIPER IN TRADITIONAL KILTS, STANDING TALL ON THE BATTLEFIELD–OVER 1000 PIPERS WERE KILLED IN WWI)

WWI Scottish PiperThe original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution 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.

united-states-flag_2188_130187911[1]

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter 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 its place 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.

united-states-flag_2183_58326922[1]From 1971-1978, Veterans Day was celebrated on October 25. In 1975, then-President Gerald Ford signed a bill that would return it to November 11 again starting in 1978.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. 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.

Do you remember the poem by Canadian John McCrae “In Flanders Fields”? Many of us had to memorize this in elementary school. McCrae was a physician/surgeon during WWI–he died of pneumonia not long before the war ended. Take a minute to listen to this recitation of “In Flanders Fields” by the late Leonard Cohen. It is haunting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKoJvHcMLfc&feature=share

united-states-flag_2187_29279775[1]

CREDIT GIVEN TO:  Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs website for much of the text and one picture in this post.

 

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules

18 Comments

  1. Thank you. Nicely done.

    1. Thanks, Eliza. I hope we always cherish this day. It’s really important.

  2. Very nice. I have listened to that poem before. It never fails to touch.

    1. Debra, listening to Leonard Cohen read it is just…amazing. I love his voice, but his reading of this is really, really touching. Even more so when I started researching John McCrae, the author. He’d already been off to the Boer Wars and did not want to go back to war at all. I am always so in awe of people who can write such touching, beautiful lines with such meaning–so heartfelt–in poems such as this.

  3. Very interesting post today. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Janine! You are very welcome. I think Veterans Day is one of those days that really isn’t taught about much in schools, etc. I wish it was given more importance.

  4. Very informative article re Veteran’s Day, Cheryl. It is always good to be reminded of why this day is so important in our nation’s history. It deserves more attention that it gets.

    1. Linda, I couldn’t agree more. My dad was not able to go serve in WWII–his lungs were not good–he always regretted it, and I think felt somehow ashamed that he wasn’t able to go. No telling how many times he was asked about it during the war–he was born in 1922, so was at the prime age to go serve. There was never a more patriotic person than he was. Secretly, as a kid, when I thought about it, I was really glad he HADN’T had to go–I don’t think he’d have made it with his lungs like they were.

      Veterans Day is one of our most important “holidays”, IMO. It’s one that is like no other, truly–and one we should always honor.

  5. Veteran’s Day is so special. It is recognized every year at our small town elementary school. Our veterans are honored and appreciated as they should be. Thank you very much for sharing your post.

    1. Melanie, I believe the smaller towns across America are more apt to recognize Veterans Day than the larger ones in the school systems. I wish it was that way everywhere. My husband is a Vietnam vet. Even after all these years, there is still so much pain among the Vietnam vets for the way they were treated by our country. Very sad. I’m so glad there are places left in America that make a big deal over Veterans Day.

  6. Cheryl- I absolutely loved this post. There were many tidbits of info I did not realize, and many I was aware of from my studies of American history. Thank you for sharing this. My grandfather spent 3 1/2 years held captive in Japanese prison camp. He was very lucky he made it out alive. The stories he told me of his time in there would just break your heart. So I personally honor & support our great men & women who sacrifice their lives for our great country. Glend bless our soldiers and America.

    1. Hey Tonya! Thank you! I learned a lot when I was researching this, and if you click on the link to listen to “In Flanders Fields”, after Mr. Cohen recites it, there is a piece that follows about John McCrae that is SO interesting.

      MG, I admire your grandfather so much, Tonya. I remember as a kid how when adults were talking about WWII, they many times would just stop talking when kids entered the room. MUCH later, my mom told me of some of the things her relatives had told her about their time spent overseas in the military during WWII. Horrible things. Coming from “small town America” as we did–these were things we never would have thought of in a million years.

      Amen! God bless our soldiers and our country! Thanks so much for coming by!

  7. What a wonderful post and wonderful history, Cheryl. Thank you. I do know it had formerly been called Armistice Day. When I was a very little girl, mom’s bank would hand out little paper poppies. I so loved mine and wore it like a corsage. I wish the Great War had been enough…it seems the world is always having another one someplace else.

    I thank God for all the men and women who keep us safe and free, those who serve now, and our veterans. God Bless America.

  8. Tanya, I remember those little poppies, too! I had a grand aunt who did that…but it seems like they asked for a dime for them…probably their version of Paralyzed Veterans donations “back in the day”. Mom would always buy us both one. I wish I still had some of those–or that they still did that. I bet there’d be people who would buy them and wear them proudly like we all did!

    I wish the Great War had been the last one, too…as you say, there always seems to be another one brewing somewhere. I think our veterans and active duty military are VERY special people! Thank God for them!

  9. What I do not understand is why veterans do not get this day off! How does banks closing honor our veterans. How do they attend the parades in their honor if they have to work!

    1. I soooo agree, catslady! And here in Oklahoma, many of our banks didn’t even close! I remember how, even just a few years ago, all the banks closed–but it wasn’t that way this year. I looked it up on the internet and it was up to them!

      Something else that is weird…I remember growing up that on election day, there was no mail…but this year we got mail! Liquor stores were closed on election day, just as they’ve always been…

      But yes, I agree–Veterans Day should be a federal holiday and everything should be closed so the veterans can participate–or if not closed, at least veterans should have that day off! Seems so sad to have a day in their honor that they can’t participate in!

  10. An excellent explanation of Veterans Day. It is unfortunate that it is not celebrated the way it was originally. However, to me the best way to celebrate the day is to make it personal. Take the time to write and bring “Thank You For Your Service” cards to the veterans in the VA facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even homeless shelters. Hand them out to the veteran personally and spend a few minutes visiting with them. Many have few friends and family left and would really appreciate a visit. It will warm your heart and bring some joy to theirs. Better yet, celebrate with them throughout the year. Christmas always brings lots of visitors. But, you could bring them a Valentine Card, say hi on St. Patrick’s Day, hop on over at Easter, thank them again on the 4th of July, and celebrate Fall with them. We have been working on a program with our local Red Cross chapter to do this. Contact your chapter to see if they have such a program. If not, work with them to get one started. Involve service clubs and schools. We have the lives we do because these men and women served their country. The least we can do is remember them and thank them.

  11. Patricia, these are all such excellent ideas! When I was a Girl Scout leader we did do a few things to recognize Veterans Day–tray favors, etc. for the VA hospital. People just don’t realize what such small gestures mean to someone who feels forgotten and alone.

    I think it’s so wonderful that you are so involved with helping in so many facets. I would love to be more active in doing things like that, too. I think a lot of the problem is just not knowing where to begin–but the Red Cross chapter is a good place to start! Thank you!

Comments are closed.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015