POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Honor Our Veterans on Armistice Day

by David Trumbull

November 3, 2006

Do you pause for a moment of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month? I remember, in the 1960s in grade school, we all did so in observance of Armistice Day, even though the name of the commemoration had been official changed to Veterans Day way back in 1954.

Without question, we do right to honor our soldiers, seamen, airmen, and marines with a public holiday. But let us not forget the origins of Veterans Day/Armistice Day, as remembrance of the end of the "War to End All Wars." Twenty years later, Massachusetts shoe laster James Hughes described the scene in Boston on November 11, 1918

There was a lot of excitement when we heard about the Armistice…some of them old fellas was walkin' on the streets with open Bibles in their hands. All the shops were shut down. I never seen the people so crazy…confetti was a-flying in all directions…I'll never forget it.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. In 1926 Congress officially encouraged the observance of the day throughout the nation, but in was not until 1938 that Armistice Day became a legal federal holiday.

In 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars and President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation. Subsequent Presidents have continued the practice of issuing such proclamations. Here's part of this year's

Now therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2006, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 5 through November 11, 2006, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.

By the way, Veterans Day is always on November 11th, which this year is a Saturday. In 1968 the Uniform Holiday Bill removed several federal holidays from their traditional dates, placing them on Mondays in order to create three-day weekends. But many were not pleased with this tinkering with Veterans Day and in 1975 President Gerald R. Ford signed the law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

For more information on the celebration of Veterans Day, see

God Bless the United States of America!