Originating on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, 1918, the cessation of fighting at the end of World War I would come to be known as Veterans Day. This hallowed day, was thought to be the end to wars, and was reflected upon by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 as representative of the solemn pride to honor those who died in service of their country.
The concept for Veterans Day was to be a day of celebration marked by parades and meetings. Work was supposed to come to an end at the prescribed time of 11:00 AM, to allow people to recognize the sacrifice through which peace had been attained. In 1926, the United States Congress passed a resolution recognizing the day to be a legal holiday that calls upon people to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings and that people would observe the day through ceremonies and friendly relations with all people. This only officially recognized November 11th during that year though.
It was not until 1938 when the United States code declared that November 11th would be recognized every year. This day was to be known as Armistice Day, in honor of World War I veterans. Unfortunately, another World War was just around the corner. So, after World War II and the subsequent Korean War ended, a change was made. The 83rd Congress convened and changed the word Armistice to Veterans.
This would seem the end of the story, except that in 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act formally changed the date of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It would take until 1978 for the holiday to be moved back to November 11th. Since 1978, the day has remained on November 11th each year, except to recognize it as a federal holiday warranting a day off from work on either the adjacent Friday or Monday.
The spelling is iconic for its purpose. While it would not be incorrect to spell it as Veteran’s Day, or Veterans’ Day, it is officially listed as Veterans Day. The purpose for this is a formal recognition that the day does not belong to veterans, but is a day to honor all veterans.
As time goes, the understanding of the day has changed as well. Much like the original concept of the Purple Heart being an award given for valor and merit before transitioning later to a medal for wounded service members, Veterans Day originated with the same concept as today’s Memorial Day. What is most important to realize is that, regardless of what the true definition means to the observer, the purpose behind the day is to remind us all that people put their lives on the line in support of their countries and their fellow man. Their service, their sacrifice, and their dedication to something greater than themselves is honored across the nation.
On this Veterans Day, it is not just about saying thank you, or providing a discounted service. Although these actions are always welcome, it is about recognizing and giving respect to those who have served and those who continue to serve. It is about history, as much as it is about the future, and understanding what service really means.
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