There is an interesting story behind Veterans Day and how it came to be and what it is honoring.
After World War I ended, the war to end all wars they said at the time, it was well noted that it officially ended at the signing of the peace agreement at 11 a.m. on November 11, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year.
So a few years after WWI ended, the world wanted to celebrate peace as a universal goal and standard. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the President to honor the anniversary of the armistice, but for some reason, did not establish it as a national holiday. That took until 1938 when Congress finally decided that celebrating the end of the most horrific war this nation, or any nation, had ever faced, was certainly worth celebrating.
Sixteen years later, in 1954, Congress wanted to include honoring veterans of the other terrible wars we fought after the war to end all wars. So Veterans Day became the official name of the day originally celebrating the Nov. 11 armistice.
But in 1966, Congress did not want the holiday to be inconvenient, occur in the middle of the week or anyplace else. So they decided that the fourth Monday of October, not Nov. 11 would officially be Veterans Day and would honor all veterans including those who celebrated peace on Armistice Day, Nov. 11.
Well, that certainly did not sit well with historians and veterans. Veterans groups were angry. Forty-six states refused to honor the federal government’s change of date.
It lasted until 1975. That’s when Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, a Congresswoman, and head of the Post Office and Civil Service Subcommittee on Census and Statistics, introduced the bill to get the holiday moved back to Nov. 11. New Jersey’s own Congressman Dominick Daniels seconded the motion, endorsing the change, and telling Congress “I believe there is still room for tradition in this society, even as we race forward toward the 21st century. A tradition we must keep alive is the setting aside of a single day each year to honor the veterans of this Nation. And this day should remain the same, and should not be changed around to suit some arbitrary holiday schedule.”
The bill passed the House 410 to 6 and went into effect starting in 1978.
Still the day faces many problems. Originally established as a day to celebrate armistice, peace, and international friendship, it has gradually turned into a day glorifying war and putting peace off to the side.
Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.
There is another group, Veterans For Peace, which wants to turn around the accent of the day not on war and the might of the military, but on peace and the benefits of living together. The group has taken the lead in lifting up the original intention of November 11th. They feel celebrating peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans because they want generations after themselves to never know the destruction war has wrought on people and the earth.
Whether you look at Veterans Day as a day to celebrate peace, or a day to show the force and might of the country, the primary intention should be to honor all veterans. Realize there would be no peace without them, honor those who have given their lives or their health to protect it, and pray for the day we can all believe that war does not end differences, but rather kills the ability to have discussions and keep peace alive for every generation.
The following article was originally posted on Muriel Smith's website, Veni Vidi Scripto. If you are interested in reading more about local history and current events, visit Veni Vidi Scripto.