Veterans Day, celebrated on Friday, November 11 this year, is a federal holiday that honors all veterans of the United States armed forces, both living and dead. Also, it is a state holiday in all 50 states. Besides most banks and post offices being closed on this day, according to survey data, a little over 20% of private businesses will observe this day as a holiday this year.
Veterans Day formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed twenty years later in 1938, November 11 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'” As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.
In 1954, after having been through World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress — at the urging of the veterans service organizations — amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
In 1968, the Uniforms Holiday Bill provided three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October. Many states didn’t agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on Oct. 25, 1971. Finally, on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978. Since then, the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on Nov. 11.
Also, a number of countries honor their veterans each year on November 11, although the name and types of commemorations differ somewhat from Veterans Day celebrations in the United States. For example, Canada and Australia observe “Remembrance Day” on November 11, and Great Britain observes “Remembrance Day” on the Sunday nearest to November 11. There are similarities and differences between these countries’ Remembrance Day and America’s Veterans Day. Canada’s observance is actually quite similar to the U.S. celebration, in that the day is intended to honor all who served in Canada’s Armed Forces. However, unlike in the U.S., many Canadians wear red poppy flowers on November 11 in honor of their war dead. In Australia, Remembrance Day is very much like America’s Memorial Day, a day to honor that nation’s war dead.
The poppy flower, over the last century and into today, has become a symbol of honor and remembrance for servicemen who died in any war. Originally, the poppy was noted in a famous poem written in 1915 by John McCrae called, “In Flanders Field.” In the spring of 1915, in the midst of World War I, McCrae, a Canadian poet, was serving as a field surgeon near Ypres, Belgium. He noticed bright red poppies — a classic symbol of resurrection — sprouting up among the all-too-new and common grave sites in the region. This image, along with the recent loss of a good friend in battle, inspired him to scribble down the poem. The poem’s first chapter begins with, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row. . . ”
HRM Partners, Inc. 11.06.2011.