Saturday 11/11 is Veterans Day, which was initially called Armistice Day to celebrate the end of the Great War (World War I) — on the eleventh month on the eleventh day.
History of Veterans Day
The roots of Veterans Day go back nearly 100 years. Fighting during WWI stopped on November 11, 1918 after an armistice between the Germans and the Allies. November 11 was commemorated as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
A resolution was passed by Congress in 1926, calling for November 11 to be remembered every year “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” A Congressional Act in May of 1938 made November 11, 1938 — Armistice Day — a public holiday.
Many American soldiers served and lost their lives during WWII and the Korean War, and in the wake of their service, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day by President Eisenhower, in 1954.
In 1968 a bill was passed which called for Veterans Day to be observed on the fourth Monday in October starting in 1971. The change was part of a move to give federal workers several three-day holiday weekends, but in 1971, two states observed Veterans Day on November 11th, the traditional holiday. Over time, other states followed the same.
In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a bill which pushed Veterans Day back to November 11, to take effect in 1978. President Ford said in a statement that he felt “restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 will help preserve in the hearts and lives of all Americans the spirit of patriotism, the love of country, and the willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good symbolized by this very special day.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs made the following statement about Veterans Day:
… is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty.
According to the VA, Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is meant to honor those who died while serving. It was originally called Decoration Day.
Celebrate Your Family Members’ Military Service and Honor Those Who Have Served Their Country
For those of you that are privileged to have a relative that served in the Military or know someone who served, take some time this week to ask them about their service. Remember Veterans Day is to honor, not only those who served during a time of war, but also those who served during peacetime.
Talk to your grandfathers, fathers, uncles, cousins, and brothers about their time in the service. Ask those who served during peacetime as well. Record your conversations with them. Talk to them even if you are not writing their history. The insights you will gain from learning about their service will help you in all aspects of your life.
Vietnam and the Gulf Wars brought military service closer to our own lives. No longer is serving in the military something that happened so long ago. It is not just our grandfather’s story to tell.
My own story is kind of unique. I served in the US Navy from 1976 – 1985. Serving on small destroyers and traveling the world, I served in between the Vietnam war and the Gulf Wars. It was in the heart of the Cold War, and we skirmished with the Russians all the time. They loved to harass us every chance they could. Today my son serves in the US Army as a captain. I couldn’t be prouder.
Honor your veteran relatives by asking them about their service. Show them how proud you are of their service. When you digitally record their experiences, your descendants will also know of their honorable service.
Veterans Day is a great time to talk to your relatives and learn more about them. Acknowledge their service in standing up and serving their country.