Veterans Day is Friday, November 11th. Formerly known as Armistice Day, this holiday was originally created to commemorate the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11th was "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day.'" This new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.
In 1954 the 83rd U.S. Congress – responding to veterans’ service organizations and in the aftermath of World War II and The Korean War -- amended the act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." With the signature of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954, this legislation established November 11 as a day to honor all American veterans.
There was a brief period of time, with the passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill in which the federal government attempted to move the celebration of most Federal Holidays to either a Friday or Monday in order to create long holiday weekends, that Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October. This created confusion and complaints and President Gerald R. Ford signed a law in 1975 that moved Veterans Day back to the original date of November 11.
Many people confuse this holiday with Memorial Day. However, Memorial Day honors those members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their life in the service of our nation. This includes those killed in action or who died as a result of wounds or injuries received in battle.
On the other hand, Veterans Day is an occasion to honor all military veterans who served with honor and to thank them for their service. It has also become a day in which to thank all men and women who are still serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Guard and Reserves.
Serving in the Armed Forces of the United States is more than a job; it is a commitment that in many ways resembles a calling. Everyone who enters the military takes an oath to defend the United States and its Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” With military service there are inherent dangers, not only in battle but also in the very nature of service and training, as well as in the wars to defend our nation, our allies, and our way of life. The men and women in uniform accept this fact without hesitation. There is a selflessness and a commitment to something larger than one’s self that is at the heart of military service.
When I served at the Pentagon, I kept a letter to America pinned on the wall next to my desk. It was written by Captain Kyle Comfort, a U.S. Army officer and commander of Bravo (B) Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment who was to later die in battle in Afghanistan. He wrote: “America, sleep soundly tonight. The Soldiers of Bravo Company will tuck you in with the power of freedom and all that it offers. They will ask nothing in return of you and it is likely they never will. When you see these few, these happy few, tell them you love them for their sacrifice and that you slept well tonight.”
Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery, service and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans. To my fellow veterans, I say Thank You. It was an honor for me to serve along with you. To all of you, make it a point this week to thank the veterans you know.
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