Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Originally, it started as a national holiday to commemorate Armistice Day – the end of the violence in WWI, which had occurred on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (i.e., November 11 of 1918).
The following year in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson established the first observance of Armistice Day, explaining:
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. [i]
But in 1954, following both WWII and the Korean War, President Eisenhower signed an act renaming the holiday Veterans Day [ii] so that “a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed much to the preservation of this Nation.” [iii] (emphasis added) He requested:
[L]et us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores to preserve our heritage of freedom; and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain. [iv]
But veterans were respected and honored long before any official holiday was established, including by George Washington in his June 8, 1783 Circular Letter of Farewell to the Army calling on Congress to provide veterans’ benefits, which he believed was due them as “the price of their blood and of your independency.” [v] In 1989, the Department of Veterans Affairs was elevated to a cabinet level department by President George H. W. Bush.
On this special day when we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made across the years by men and women willing to lay down their lives to protect and defend our Constitution, our freedoms, and our way of life, let’s be proactive in our gratitude. Thank a veteran or active military member in uniform, attend a Veterans Day parade, pray for the military families, and remind those around you of the significance of this day. (Incidentally, you might also be interested in our WallBuilders Live radio programs airing this week to honor important American military heroes; the podcasts of those programs can be downloaded.)
For additional information about this holiday, see:
George Washington, The Writings of George Washington
, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1938), Vol. XXVI, p. 492, to Meshech Weare, et al, “Circular Letter of Farewell to Army,” June 8, 1783 (available at: memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mgw:@field(DOCID+@lit(gw260534))