By Edith Morgan
Friday, November 11, 2016, is the day we set aside for our annual Veterans’ Day remembrance: it is a National Holiday, so everyone can observe it.
Originally called Armistice Day at the end of World War I, when finally after four years of bloody fighting we signed an armistice – to commemorate the end of a war when hostilities were finally ended – on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.
President Woodrow Wilson welcomed the end of hostilities in a very optimistic speech, in 1919, describing the efforts that had been made in the intervening year to rebuild and recover from this first huge world war, which many people at that time hoped would be our last.
On “Armistice Day” as it was first called, our “reflections were to be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory … ”
On June 4, 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution asking then-President Calvin Coolidge to issue a yearly proclamation calling for ceremonies on November 11. And so Armistice Day became a national holiday.
A variety of different kinds of observances took place over the years. Of course, by 1945 we had been involved in another World War, and under the leadership of a World War II veteran from Birmingham who convinced Dwight Eisenhower to support a National Veterans’ Day – and to change the name of this holiday to the name it bears today.
Originally always scheduled to be on November 11th, since 1971, due to the passing of “The Uniform Monday Holiday Act” this day was moved to Mondays every year from 1871 to 1977. But on November 11th, 1978, it was once again observed on November 11. If the real date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, there is a day off on the Friday or Sunday near the date.’ So schools and government offices are closed and workers get a day off.
Some people have recentty suggested that since election day is so close to Veterans’ Day, we merge the two days, giving the public a day off and allowing people to vote on that day.
We should not confuse Veterans’ Day with Memorial Day – which specifically honors those who have died serving in our military.
Woodrow Wilson hoped that this day would be ..”a day filled with the solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service,“ and be a day …” dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
With fervent hope that finally peace may come to pass (although we are engaged in several deadly wars around the globe!) let us this Veterans’ Day salute and support all our veterans and pledge to stand behind them and their families, so long as they need us.