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Veterans Day history

Special to The Standard


Veterans Day honors all of those who have served our country, but it is largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.

Originally known as Armistice Day, it was celebrated and marked as the anniversary of the end of World War I.

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on Nov. 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiegne, France at 5:45 a.m. for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front.

It took effect at eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days and had to be extended several times.

A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year, but according to intelligence sources with the U.S. First Division, shelling from both sides continued for the rest of the day, only ending at nightfall.

On Nov. 11, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued a message on the first Armistice Day in which he expressed what he felt the day meant to Americans.

On June 4, 1926, Congress adopted a resolution requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue an annual proclamation calling for a holiday on Nov. 11 with ritual ceremony.

It was approved May 13, 1938, by Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a). It made Nov. 11 a legal holiday celebrated as Armistice Day.

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I.

Weeks led a delegation to then Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported his idea of a National Veterans Day. On June 1, 1954, Veterans Day was formally recognized as a national holiday by President Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1947, Weeks led the first national celebration of Armistice Day for all veterans in Birmingham and annually until his death in 1985.

Congress has changed the date of the holiday through the years.

Finally on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed another law (Public Law 94-97), which returned the annual observance to its original date starting in 1978.

A host of other countries celebrate Veterans Day. Our allies in these wars also celebrate their veterans on Nov. 11.

The name of the day and the types of celebrations differ. Canada and Australia both call Nov. 11 ‘Remembrance Day.’

Canada’s is similar to our own, except many wear red poppy flowers to honor. In Australia, the day is more like our Memorial Day.

Great Britain also celebrates ‘Remembrance Day’ but observe it on the Sunday closest to Nov. 11 with parades, services and two minutes of silence in London to honor those who lost their lives in war.

The Greenville Standard extends a great thanks to all veterans, both past and present, who have stood for and protected the freedoms of their countrymen as well as those of other countries.

We especially thank Butler County veterans for their service.

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