You are probably already familiar with the fact that Monday, November 11th, marks the 94th commemoration of what we now know as Veterans Day. What you may not be familiar with however is the storied history that surrounds this holiday. Today, in honor of our men and women in uniform, I would like to take a moment to recount that history.
While the Treaty of Versailles officially ended World War One, fighting ceased seven months prior when an armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Generally regarded as “the war to end all wars,” World War One was unlike anything the world had ever seen before.
During the war, 116,516 soldiers were killed, 204,002 were wounded and 4,500 were taken as prisoner or missing — and those are just Americans. With the exception of the Civil War, these numbers were unprecedented.
On November 11, 1919, then President Wilson proclaimed the day as the first remembrance of Armistice Day. The day was celebrated not only with parades and public meetings but also a brief pause of business beginning at 11am.
Almost 50 years later, the United States passed the Uniform Holiday Bill which ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by observing Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day, all on Mondays. The idea was that this would encourage travel and generally stimulate the economy.
This change was not met with a very warm welcome though. To many, the historical significance had been lost. It didn’t take long before President Ford signed a new law restoring November 11th as the annual observance of Veterans Days regardless of what day of the week it falls on.
My intent is not to bore you with historical data, but I believe it is a history worth repeating as it speaks volumes about the American spirit. The people of this country valued the veterans’ sacrifice so much that they wouldn’t stand to have Veterans Day celebrated on any day other than the anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of one of our nation’s bloodiest wars. Many years and unfortunately a few wars later, I still get goose bumps seeing the way our country unites around its veterans unlike anything else.
In America, and here in Indiana, we recognize our veterans for what they truly are: heroes. As we take the time to acknowledge our veterans this holiday weekend, I encourage everyone to remember that their fight to defend our freedoms is an everyday battle and our support and appreciation should be given every day as well. We should never lose sight of the fact that America would not be the same if it were not for the men and women who fought and died to defend the principles of liberty, justice and equality.
To our men and women in uniform and the loved ones who stand by their side, I personally want to thank you for the sacrifices you have made to make the world a better place for me and my family. Your selflessness is to be admired and your courage will not be forgotten.