Veterans Day holiday changed over the years

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Editor's Note: Some information from this story was taken from the Veteran's of Foreign Wars organizational Web site (www.vfw.org) and reprinted with permission.
   The holiday which honors all of America's veterans began in 1921 and has changed over the years.
   In 1921, an unknown American soldier who died fighting in World War I was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery at a site on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington that has since become a site of reverence for all of the nation's veterans. Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in the highest place of honor in each nation. The soldier in England was interred in Westminster Abbey while the soldier in France was laid to rest in a tomb at the Arc de Triomphe.
   These memorial ceremonies all took place on Nov. 11, giving honor to the fallen soldiers who fought in World War I and celebrating the anniversary of the end of fighting which occurred at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. The day later became known as "Armistice Day" as it came to celebrate the armistice of the war.
   In 1926, the day became officially known as Armistice Day in the United States when the U.S. Congress issued a resolution on June 4 of that year.
   "Whereas the 11th of November 1918 marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples," states the resolution issued by Congress as provided on the Web site for the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
   The idealistic hope that World War I would bring an end to global conflict was not achieved and what was supposed to have been "the War to end all Wars," was followed within a few years by World War II and then the Korean War.
   In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veteran's Day, making it an occasion to honor those who served America in all wars. In his proclamation, Eisenhower stated that "in the intervening years (since WWII) the United States has been involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this nation."
   A law was passed in 1968 which changed the national commemoration of Veteran's Day to the fourth Monday in October, but it soon became apparent that Nov. 11 was a historic date to many Americans. Just 10 years later, in 1978, Congress changed the holiday back to its traditional date of observance.
   The focal point for the official national celebration of the holiday continues to be the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, a combined color guard representing all branches of the military Presents Arms at the tomb, the president lays a wreath on the tomb and a bugler plays "Taps."