Veteran is a term used to refer to those people of the United States who have served in the Armed Forces. Veterans Day as such is a day that pays tribute to those men and women. Veterans Day is an official federal holiday in the United States that is observed each year on the 11th day of the month of November.
There is often confusion between the observance of Veterans Day and Memorial Day. The difference is that – Memorial Day is to pay tribute to those who have been martyred, while Veterans Day is observed to honor all veterans, living or dead.
- In the year 1919, the then President of the United States Woodrow Wilson put forward the proclamation for Armistice Day to be observed on November 11.
- On June 24, 1926, seven years after the first proclamation made by Wilson, the United States Congress passed the resolution on concurrence. It was requested to the then President of the United States Calvin Coolidge to issue a proclamation so that the 11th day of November can be observed in appropriate way.
- In keeping with this resolution, on the 13th day of May, 1938, a Congressional Act was passed to make November 11 each year to be a legal holiday in the United States in honor of world peace and that day came to be celebrated as Armistice Day.
- In the year 1945, a veteran of World War II from Birmingham, Alabama, named Raymond Weeks proposed the idea that the day’s significance should be expanded to honor not only those men and women who sacrificed their lives in World War I, but also those men and women who are serving the nation by being part of its armed forces.
- Weeks gave leadership to a delegation who approached General Dwight Eisenhower to support the idea of propagating National Veterans Day.
- Under Weeks’ leadership the first celebration was held in Alabama in the year 1947, and as long as Weeks lived he led the celebrations each year till 1985.
- Meanwhile in 1982, Weeks was honored at the White House by President Ronald Reagan for being the driving force behind the Veterans Day movement with the Presidential Citizenship Medal. In his address the President mentioned Weeks to be the "Father of Veterans Day".
- In the year 1954, U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas State, presented a Bill in favor of passing Veterans Day to be a national holiday. On the 26th of May of the same year the then President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Bill to make it into law.
- On 1st of June 1954 the Act was amended by the Congress to replace "Armistice" with "Veterans", and since that day the holiday observed on the 11th day of November each year has been known as the Veterans Day.
- Also in 1954 an award was also created in honor of this day known as the National Veterans Award, and Rees was the first person to be honored with this Award for his unconditional support and nine years of constant effort in making Veterans Day a national holiday.
- In 1971, in keeping with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the holiday was shifted to the fourth Monday of the month of October.
- In 1978, the date of celebration was again moved to the original one – November 11. If the day falls on a Saturday then the federal holiday is observed on the preceding Friday; and if the day falls on a Sunday then it is observed on the following Monday.
Observance and Public Life:
Non-essential Government departments do not function on this day. Schools are often closed too for the occasion. No such regulation is applicable in case of retail stores or restaurants. In fact, retailers come up with huge schemes and discounts for veterans. Restaurants and Food Chains often offer free meals or dining services to veterans on this day. Public transportation system may run a little erratic though. If the day falls on a Saturday then the federal holiday is observed on the preceding Friday; and if the day falls on a Sunday then it is observed on the following Monday. If for any reason a federal worker is required to work on this day, she/ he is eligible for extra payment for that. Special church services and parades are often organized to mark the occasion. Also, many places fly the National Flag of the country at half mast. A two minute silence is also observed at eleven in the morning to honor the Veterans.
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