At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, an armistice, or cease-fire, went into effect ending the fighting in World War I. After four long years, the “Great War” was over. President Woodrow Wilson had called it the “war to end all wars” and the war “to make the world safe for democracy.”
In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first Armistice Day. Business was to cease for two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. as the day was celebrated with parades and other public functions honoring the World War I veterans. Congress authorized the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921. The body of an unknown American World War I soldier, symbolizing all the unknown dead, was interred at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1921, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Congress, in 1926, further encouraged the observance of Armistice Day by directing the President to issue a yearly proclamation requesting that Americans remember the significance of that day. In 1938, November 11 was made a federal holiday. By this time, most states had already made November 11 the Armistice Day legal holiday.
And then the unthinkable happened – World War II. The country now had more veterans, but from a different war. The Korean War followed. Armistice Day was still being observed but its focus was becoming broader. Emporia, Kansas, called its 1953 observance of November 11 Veterans Day. President Eisenhower, recognizing this evolving change in emphasis and significance, signed legislation which officially changed the November 11 federal holiday to Veteran’s Day in 1954.
Congress attempted to change the observation of Veteran’s Day to a Monday in October effective 1971. Mississippi and South Dakota refused to change their holiday to coincide. Citizens throughout the country retained their special attachment to the original “Armistice” Day date and 44 other states returned to November 11 for their commemorations. Congress responded by returning the federal observance of Veterans Day to November 11 effective 1978.
By this time, Vietnam had followed Korea. The Gulf Wars ensued. With each conflict, more American men and women answered their country’s call and the ranks of veterans swelled.
So this November 11, please take time to remember all of our veterans from all of our wars and to pray for the return of peace. Thank a veteran for his or her service to our country, and be sure to fly those flags!
A community Veteran’s Day program will begin at Houston High School at 9:45 a.m. on Monday, November 11. If your schedule permits, please join the student body in honoring our veterans. If you cannot attend the program, at least pause at 11 a.m. for two minutes of silence.
Cara Chisolm is a resident of Houston and the Patriotism Chair for the Pilot Club. She periodically submits a column of general interest for our readers.