The History of Veterans’ Day

The History of Veterans’ Day

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November 11, or what has come to be known as Veterans Day, was originally set as a US legal holiday to honor Armistice Day – the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918.  In legislature that was passed in 1938, November 11 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”  As such, this new legal holiday honored World War l veterans.
In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd US Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.”  With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays:  Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day.  Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October.  Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date.  The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971.
Finally, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.  Since then, the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on November 11.  Marines, of course, believe that the holiday on November 11 is the nation’s way of giving them a day off after their Marine Corps birthday celebration – on November 10.
As a tribute to our veterans, let me share a popular poem originally written by A. Lawrence Vaincourt in 1987 and tweaked slightly over time:
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast.
And he sat around the Legion,
telling stories of his past.
 
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.
 
And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew whereof he spoke.
 
But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the word’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.
 
He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.
 
He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing
‘Tho a Veteran died today.
 
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great,
 
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
 
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
 
The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
 
While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offerred up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
 
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
 Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?
 
Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.
 
He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
 
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
 
If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.
 
Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
‘OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

"Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading" ~ Thomas Jefferson