Nov. 11, 1918. The 11th day of the 11th month. The official end of World War I. “The Great War,” “The War to End All Wars.”
In legislation passed in 1938, Veteran’s Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of the “War to End All Wars.” It was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day and as such honored World War I veterans.”
In 1954, after both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress, at the urging of veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans” and became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The official date has been moved around, and (to much confusion) was observed on the fourth Monday of October in 1971. It wasn’t until Sept. 20, 1975, when President Gerald Ford signed a law that returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to the original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978.
What does Veterans Day mean to veterans?
Mike McMillan (Vietnam) said, “I know it’s a day of appreciation (of veterans), to show people care, and that means a lot, but for most combat veterans, it’s a day to ‘bunker up;‘ there are painful memories. I would ‘go into hiding,’ go out into the hills by myself, and try to make sense of the craziness.” Ironically, McMillan said it was on a Veterans Day several years ago that “brought me out of my bunker.” He was asked to speak at a service at Mount View Cemetery. He agreed, and said although he spoke through tears, for him it was a catharsis. “I realized that that was then; this is now.”
Chris Kampbell, who served a tour in Kuwait with the National Guard, said on Veterans Day, “I think about those who served before me and the sacrifices they made. (When they served) it was a different world, a different time. I was glad to give back what they gave me.”
Merl Gipson, a World War II vet, said, “It’s gotten to be kind of like any other day. It’s losing its meaning through the years. Today there is so much focus on politics. I don’t think (the country) is honoring veterans like they used to.”
There are hundreds of “quotable quotes,” about this patriotic holiday. One by John Doolittle is particularly apt, “America’s veterans have served their county with the belief that democracy and freedom are ideals to be upheld around the world.”
Another one that strikes a chord is by Claudia Pemberton’s “America without her soldiers would be like God without His angels.”
To all veterans, we say, along with the anonymous author of the following: “To our men and women in uniform, past, present and future, God bless you and thank you.”