The 11th Hour – 11th Day – 11th Month
By Les Whittle
The 11th hour, the 11th day of the 11th month have a tender significance to our Great Country, Veterans and Citizenry. It was the end of World War I, supposedly the war to end of all wars. As can be seen, through this brief history of Veterans Day, it took Congress 8 years before officially recognizing Veterans following World War I in November 1918. Many States began paying tribute to Veterans immediately following WWI perhaps putting pressure on Congress to officially pass the beginning resolution of what was then known as a Legal Holiday, then Armistice Day, later to become Veterans Day. Veterans Day, as we know it today, began as a concurrent resolution (44 Stat. 1982) enacted by Congress on June 4, 1926 . However, at that time it was recognized only as a legal holiday not Armistice Day or Veterans Day. It was America 's official recognition of the end of World War I, the world's first modern global conflict.
The concurrent resolution (44 Stat. 1982) enacted by Congress on June 4, 1926 , with these words:
WHEREAS the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be served, and
WHEREAS it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
WHEREAS the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday:
Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the President of the United States is requested to 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) approved on May 13, 1938 , made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday. A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.
Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, with the sacrifices of World War II and Korea still fresh in the nation's memory the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans' service organizations, amended the Act of 1938. With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380 on June 1, 1954), November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. On October 8th, 1954 , President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation officially changing the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
The Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays. These holidays were Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971 .
It quickly became apparent that the commemoration of Veterans Day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens. On September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479) which returned the annual observance of Veteran's Day to its original date of November 11th. The celebration of Veterans Day was returned to November 11th, beginning in 1978, and has remained there since.
Perhaps the wisdom of The Uniforms Holiday Bill might be questioned today. Have the citizenry lost the intent of a three-day weekend for remembrance to look solely as time off paying little observance to the holiday at hand.
The observance of Veteran's Day helps preserve in the hearts and lives of all American citizens the spirit of patriotism, the love of country, and the willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Its observance on November 11thestablished a valuable tradition of paying honor, dignity and appreciation to all of our Veterans and Nation, who gave so gallantly that our Great Nation might remain free.
Les Whittle, 11/09/03