WHY DO WE HAVE VETERANS DAY? by CHERYL PIERSON

This year, Veterans Day fell on Sunday. The 11th of November is 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.

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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.

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

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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
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32 Comments

  1. A wonderful tribute, remembrance and reminder. Thank you, Cheryl.

    1. My grandfather was a WWI vet. I don’t know what he did–I wish I had asked. My mom told me one time that she thought he was a cook–and he COULD cook! I wish I knew more.

      1. My grandfather was a cook on a ship! We have a picture of him. Coincidence, heh?

        1. My granddad’s brother ran away from home at 14 and signed up. I have a picture of him on a ship, too, but I don’t know what he did. He had a very colorful life!

      2. My grandfather was a cook on a ship WW1! We have a picture of him. Coincidence, heh?

        My dad was in the Battle of the Bulge WW2, along with his only brother and all of his brothers in law.

        1. My grandmother’s younger brother was at the Battle of the Bulge in WWII as well. Isn’t it weird to think your dad and relatives and mine might have known one another and been friends?

  2. Fantastic. I come from a military family and appreciate everything about them

    1. Debra, I have a lot of relatives who were in the military. My dad wanted to join (WWII) but they said his lungs were too bad. He always felt awful about that–he was one of the most patriotic people I ever knew. Hubby is a Vietnam vet. I have nothing but admiration for the military.

  3. Great tribute. Thanks to all the veterans for serving.

    1. Thanks, Estella, and AMEN! Thanks to all the veterans of all wars for serving!

  4. What a wonderful tribute!

    1. Thanks, Tonya! I’m fascinated by that picture from so long ago, “The Last Two Minutes of Fighting”–just amazing.

  5. I totally enjoyed your tribute. Veterans and those currently serving should be celebrated every day. Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we have now.

    1. Thanks, Janine! I bought a poppy pin from somewhere a few months back and actually remembered where I put it! LOL My great aunt used to work in an office building and on her desk she had a big “card” with poppies you could buy for 10 cents (back when I was little) that were made out of some kind of cloth or paper. I have not seen those forever. Don’t know if they even still make them anymore but they should!

  6. Great tribute Cheryl!

    1. Thanks, Quilt Lady! I know there is so much more to say. We can’t ever thank our veterans enough.

  7. Not a family in Scotland, England, Ireland or Wales managed to get through WW1 without loss, my own included. The loss of life was huge and marked a change in society forever.

    1. Christine, I’m sure that the people of the time truly thought that was the ‘war to end all wars’–wish it had been. :((( It must have been a horrendous time to live through and yet so much of that is not taught in our schools (here in America, anyhow) or talked about. Of course, everyone who lived through it is gone now, and how I wish I’d asked my granddad more about what he did, where he was, and so on. When you’re very young you just don’t think about things like that, and that one day you won’t be able to ask those questions. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Loved your post, Cheryl. If we don’t remember the ones who fight, sacrifice, and die for us we have no right to call ourselves Americans. If we lose our history we have no future.

    1. Linda, I’ve thought that so many times since my kids were in school years ago, and most of the history was just glossed over and covered in a few sentences or paragraphs in their schoolbooks. Not remembering and learning about those sacrifices that others made is just unbelievable uncaring and sad. I’m so glad you stopped by–I know you’re busy! XOXO

  9. My father and one of my brothers served. My brother served in a war zone.

    1. My husband was in Vietnam and being in a war zone never leaves you, even 50 years later–but I’m sure you know that from your brother’s experiences, Denise. Please thank them for their service.

  10. Thank you, Cheryl, for researching this and sharing, as we must never forget what these brave souls endured to fight for freedom and continue to fight right to the present. At one time it was face-to-face combat, where you could see the foe’s eyes, but now warfare has become so sophisticated that the push of a button miles away can wreak havoc. It’s become a scary world, hence we need to know our history more than ever.

    1. I agree, Elizabeth. War “back then” was so much more “up close and personal” than it has become now. I know there was at least one Star Trek episode that addressed that directly, even back in the 60’s. Much of the poetry from “back in the day” reflects that very thing–the horror of war, truly.

  11. Beautiful presentation of our history.

    1. Aw, thanks so much Jerri. I love history so much. In college I wanted to major in it, but knew I would only be able to teach if I did that and was closer to a degree in English, so I took history as my minor. I loved every single class I ever took–there was not one I thought was boring or insignificant. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  12. Loved this! Thanks for the history lesson I’m sure I knew all this at some point but I didn’t remember a lot of it. Thanks to all my P&P authors I learn a lot I did not learn in a classroom. I’m very disappointed most years with our school system because they choose to not observe Veteran’s Day. We at least had a Veteran’s program for our community this year! I have uncles that served in WWI, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

    1. Stephanie, I had an uncle that served Korea. He had tissue damage for the rest of his life due to the cold conditions our military was unprepared for. Very sad. Lots of uncles who served in WWII and my grandfather served in WWI. I was struck by how the schools didn’t let out for Veterans Day–except the ones that are in the district where the military base is. We have Tinker AFB here in OKC–actually, the suburbs–Del City and Midwest City are the two towns that surround the base and where most of the base personnel live. Those schools let out for Veterans Day. However, I will say, the schools that were in session, many of them DID have some kind of Veterans Day assembly or program. There was a parade planned in Del City for yesterday but of all things we had SNOW already, so they cancelled it. :((( Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Wow, what a cool post. Except, NO! Not the pipers!! Not the pipers! I had no idea so many fell.

    1. Kit you made me laugh. Though I shouldn’t have–I felt the same way–those pipers were BOSS. Until I started putting this article together I did not even know they participated in that fashion–but MG, what a terrible loss. Thanks for stopping by–I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  14. Thanks for sharing. We should never fail to remember and to honor!

  15. Connie, I agree wholeheartedly. To think of what the veterans of all wars have given up–their lives, their mental and emotional states, some of them losing limbs and eyes…it’s hard to think about and “thank you” just doesn’t seem adequate, does it?

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