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When Was Veterans Day Established? A Brief History

When was Veterans Day First Established?
Every year since 1918, the United States pauses to reflect and honor its military veterans. November 11 is Veterans Day, an event meant to commemorate the service of all U.S. military veterans of the uniformed services who served or are still serving. It is important to note that the recognition that is bestowed does not require a veteran to have served during time of war. Veterans Day is for all military veterans, whether they served in war or during periods of peace.

Veterans Day, or Armistice Day as it was called back then, has its origins at the end of World War I when at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the fighting ended with the signing of an armistice bringing a temporary cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, November 11. Wilson's proclamation stated: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations ...."

When was Veterans Day Established as a Federal Holiday?
In June 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a concurrent resolution: “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 severed, 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 ….”

The resolution also encouraged the display of the U.S. flag on all government buildings and urged appropriate ceremonies. Years later in 1938, Congress approved an act making November 11 a federal holiday.

When was Veterans Day Established as Veterans Day?
After the end of the Korean War, veterans’ organizations urged the U.S. Congress to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, it was rebranded to honor all service members. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans.

When was Veterans Day Established as Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day?
It wasn’t. Somehow, the incorrect use of apostrophes has made its way into the title over the years mostly done by marketing firms or companies with little grasp of the English language.

It is important to note the correct way to write Veterans Day. Many people incorrectly use “Veterans’ Day” and others use “Veteran’s Day,” but the correct way to write it is “Veterans Day.” That’s how it was signed into law.

Remember, by adding an apostrophe the day belongs to veterans. That’s not the point of Veterans Day. Simply add an “s” to make it plural and that honors all veterans.

When was Veterans Day Established as Armed Forces Day?
It wasn’t. Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day are two different days recognizing two similar groups with one major distinction. Veterans Day honors all men and women who have served in the U.S. military. Armed Forces Day, which occurs in May, honors all men and women who are currently serving.

When was Veterans Day Established to be Observed?
Without fail, and always, Veterans Day is always observed on November 11. It does not matter if the date falls during the week. All national commemorative events occur on November 11. That is not to say that local communities cannot celebrate Veterans Day on other days. For example, if a local community plans a parade and has better attendance on the weekend before Veterans Day, because Veterans Day happens to fall on a weekday, this is permissible, but the national commemorative date, November 11, always remains the same.

When was Veterans Day Established as Memorial Day?
It wasn’t. Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. There are two separate holidays and according to veteran service organizations, the two routinely get confused by those unfamiliar with military service.

Memorial Day honors American service members who died in service to their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans who served honorably, whether they are living or dead. Remember, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died in service to their country. A veteran who served honorably and who has passed away not as a result of their service should be remembered on Veterans Day. However, many people with loved ones who have passed away and served remember them on Memorial Day.

When was Veterans Day Established to be Celebrated in October?
True story. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in an attempt to reward federal employees and give them several three-day weekends by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays. The move was also done to spur some economic growth. Veterans Day was one of those holidays.

Veterans Day was moved and recognized on the fourth Monday in October and the first Veterans Day under the new law was on October 25, 1971. The change wasn’t well received by most Americans, but federal employees liked it.

Then in 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law returning the observation of Veterans Day to its original day because the date carried historical and patriotic significance to many Americans. Veterans Day was returned to November 11 beginning in 1978.

When was Veterans Day Established to Close Offices?
It wasn’t. While the Good Idea Fairy thought it would be great to give federal employees a long weekend, the idea behind Veterans Day is to recognize veterans, not close offices. However, since Veterans Day is an official federal holiday, many companies and some local government agencies take advantage of this and declare a day off and operations cease. Most federal government organizations are closed on Veterans Day if the day falls on a weekday. When Veterans Day, November 11, falls on a weekend, the federal government observes the holiday on the previous Friday or the following Monday.

Remember, state and local governments, including public school districts, do not have a legal obligation to close their doors. Individual states are free to establish their own policies for holiday recognition. The good news is that many local and state governments do have some sort of formal recognition for Veterans Day, and schools tend to have Veterans Day events where veterans are encouraged to come in and talk to students about their military service.

When was Veterans Day Established with Poppies?
It wasn’t. The practice of wearing red poppies to honor America’s war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day, not Veterans Day. The practice started during World War I after poet John McCrae wrote a poem titled, In Flanders Fields which mentions poppies in the poem.

Pop culture embraced the poem and veterans and the military community in general embraced the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for war dead. It became widely popular and has clung to the veteran community ever since, but mostly it is used as a symbolic gesture for Memorial Day. While some people use the red poppy on Veterans Day to remember a loved one who has passed, and served, the initial and intended meaning of the red poppy was to remember those lost in war while serving their country.

Many veteran service organizations offer the ability to acquire red poppies, but remember, they are normally intended for Memorial Day. However, nobody will ever challenge a person for recognizing and remembering the service of anyone who has fallen during service to the country. In fact, nobody will ever be challenged for remembering the service of anyone who has ever honorably served the United States.

That is the true meaning of Veterans Day. It is a day to gather and reflect on the honorable service of men and women who raised their hands, took an oath, and served the nation. And while commercialism has grabbed some of the shine from Veterans Day by offering car and furniture sales, for those who have served and their families, it is a special day to recognize military service, and the things veterans did, and the things they witnessed.

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