By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
Everyone knows that Nov. 11 is the day we honor our veterans, but where did it originate?
For those of you who don’t know it was originally designated Armistice Day.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the path to today’s celebration began at the end of the first World War.
The peace that ended World War I came on Nov. 11, 1918 — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
It took about 10 years before the Veterans Day traditions got up any steam and once they did it became a celebration not only for America, but for many other countries that were involved.
In 1921, an unknown WWI soldier became the first unknown to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Ceremonies were also conducted in England and France where unknown soldiers were laid to rest at Westminster Abbey and the Arc de Triumph, respectively. They all took place on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. as a universal recognition of the end of “The War to End All Wars.” It also picked up the name Armistice Day.
Fast forward to 1926 and a Congressional resolution officially naming it Armistice Day. It was declared a national holiday a dozen years later when Congress once again took action.
If it weren’t for World War II, the holiday might have kept its Armistice Day moniker, but just a few years after the holiday was made official, World War II broke out.
America did her part sending 16.5 million soldiers to the conflict and losing 407,000. More than 292,000 were lost in battle.
The term Veterans Day was finally applied in 1947 thanks to a celebration in Birmingham, Ala. That was where Raymond Weeks, a WWII veteran, organized “National Veterans Day.” His celebration included a parade and other activities to honor all veterans. It was held on Nov. 11.
The name was finally officially changed in 1954 after Kansas Congressman Edward Rees proposed a bill that would rename Armistice Day.
Almost as if it were meant to be, President Dwight Eisenhower, who had served as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, signed the bill marking Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.
Mr. Weeks’ contribution was not forgotten. In November 1982 President Ronald Reagan presented him with the Presidential Citizen’s Medal.
The celebrations didn’t go without some confusion through the years. In 1968 a law was passed changing the national commemoration of the holiday to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became obvious the Nov. 11 date was more significant to Americans, leading to a 1978 Congressional action that returned it to the traditional date where remains today.