Veterans Day

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An American National Holiday occurs and is recognized annually on November 11. It is indeed a very important day for all Americans to pause and be thankful and grateful for all of those men and women who either have or are presently serving their country in the armed forces of our great nation, the United States of America.

Sadly there are far too many American citizens today who have no idea concerning who or what Veterans Day is all about. They have no idea as regards what the history behind this solemn day includes or why the day was even declared to be a national holiday.

Permit me to provide to you the who, what, when, where, and why this great holiday exists and what you as an American should be doing to properly recognize it every year on November 11. Veterans Day is a National Holiday as declared in and by an act of the United States Congress.

Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors all military veterans—all persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other national holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, both of which are celebrated in other countries that marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. The United States previously observed Armistice Day. This U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in the month of May. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors only those men and women who died while in military service. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, which is a minor U.S. remembrance that also occurs in the month of May, and which specifically honors those men and women currently in active service in the U.S. military.

On November 11, 1919, United States President, Woodrow Wilson, issued a message to his countrymen on the first Armistice Day in which he expressed what he felt the day actually meant to all Americans. His address to the American people was made to the entire population of this nation on that special date. President Wilson boldly asserted:

“A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with the terms of an Armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and more just set of international relations. The soldiers and the people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half. With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought. Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us that the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men. 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 nations.”

The United States Congress adopted a resolution on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act approved by the Congress and the President on May 13, 1938, made November 11th 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.

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Mr. Weeks led a delegation to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and thereafter annually until his death in 1985. President Ronald Reagan honored Mr. Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined that Mr. Weeks was to be officially recognized as the “Father of Veterans Day.”

U.S. Representative Rees from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through Congress. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954. It had been eight and one half years since Mr. Weeks held his first Armistice Day celebration for all veterans.

Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and it has been known as Veterans Day ever since.

The National Veterans Award was also created in 1954. Congressman Rees of Kansas received the first National Veterans Award in Birmingham, Alabama, for his support in offering legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday.

Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October each year. However, in 1978 it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11. While the legal holiday remains on November 11, if that date happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday, the organizations that formally observe the holiday will normally be closed for business operations on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively.

Because Veterans Day is a federal holiday, some American workers and many students have Veterans Day off from work or school. When 
Veterans Day falls on a Saturday then either Saturday or the preceding Friday may be designated as the holiday, whereas if it falls on a Sunday it is typically observed on the following Monday.

Non-essential federal government offices are closed on this holiday. No mail is delivered. All federal workers are paid for the holiday; and those who are required to work on the holiday sometimes receive holiday pay for that day in addition to their wages.

In his Armistice Day address to Congress, President Wilson was sensitive to the psychological toll of the lean War years: “Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness,” he remarked. As Veterans Day and the birthday of the United States Marine Corps (November 10, 1775) are only one day apart, that branch of the Armed Forces customarily observes both occasions as a 96-hour liberty period.

Several commentators have noted that Election Day is a regular working day, while Veterans Day, which typically falls the following week, is a federal holiday. Some people have called for the holidays to be merged, so citizens could have a day off to vote. They say that this is a way to honor voting by exercising democratic rights.

While this holiday is commonly printed as Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day in calendars and advertisements (spellings that are grammatically acceptable), the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Web site states that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling “because it is not a day that “belongs” to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.

When a person knows the true history as to why and how we recognize people and events from throughout our own history, it gives a person a greater sense as to why we honor all those men and women who put their lives on the line to give us the freedoms and liberties that we all enjoy today.

Peace And Love to all of You…………………………Poppa Bear

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