Veterans Day, November 11, a Day of Honor

   When we think of the veterans we want to honor on November 11, those who served in the “big” wars come to mind, including the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. The American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War preceded these wars. All of our wars were fought by Americans to protect our freedom and the freedom of other nations.
   Since Vietnam, however, the U.S. has been involved in many wars and campaigns. Only during one period from 1984 to 1989 have no Americans fought on foreign lands.
   Here are the conflicts since Vietnam: 1982-1984: Lebanon 1983: Grenada 1989-1990: Panama 1990-1991: Persian Gulf 1992-1993: Somalia 1994-1995: Haiti 1998-1999: Yugoslavia (Americans still in Bosnia) 2002: Afghanistan to present. 2003: Iraq.
   Many died in Iraq. Some 100,000 members of the U.S. military in Iraq were wounded. They returned to the United States. As we honor our veterans who gave their lives from this and other wars, let us keep the injured in our hearts as well.
   Veterans Day is a public holiday that is dedicated to honoring anyone who has served in the United States military. The holiday began as a day to remember the end of World War I and was declared a holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday became Veterans Day in 1954.
   Most federal workers are given the day off and there is no mail service in the United States on this day. Federal workers who are required to work during the holiday are often given additional compensation as a benefit.
   When Woodrow Wilson declared 11 November a holiday, the primary intention was to have a day to reflect on the sacrifices of those who had served in the military during World War I. Observation of the holiday through parades and meetings was envisioned.
   Today, many Americans observe the day by attending ceremonies and parades that are dedicated to honoring the troops for their service. These often allow veterans to speak about their time in the service and give Americans the opportunity to personally thank veterans for their sacrifice.
   Some retail establishments and restaurant chains offer free or discounted meals for people who can prove their veteran status.
   Veterans Day always falls on November 11, but it may be observed on a different day due to the fact that it is a federal holiday. Federal employees and schoolchildren typically have the day off work and school, so the holiday is observed on the Monday following the actual date of the holiday if it happens to fall on a weekend.    November 11 was chosen as the official date for Veterans Day in reference to the ending of World War I. Germany signed an armistice with the Allies that signaled the end of the war at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918.    On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.
   In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The Congress also requested that the president should “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.”
   An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) was approved on May 13, 1938, which made November 11 in each year a legal holiday, known as Armistice Day. This day was originally intended to honor veterans of World War I. A few years later, World War II required the largest mobilization of service men in the history of the United States and the American forces fought in Korea. In 1954, the veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans”. Congress approved this change and on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, where ever and whenever they had served.
   In 1968 the Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) made an attempt to move Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October. The bill took effect in 1971. However, this caused a lot of confusion as many states disagreed with this decision and continued to hold Veterans Day activities on November 11. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which stated that Veterans Day would again be observed on November 11 from 1978 onwards. Veterans Day is still observed on November 11.

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