A history of Veterans Day in the United States

Published 10:00 am Thursday, November 11, 2021

Now celebrated Nov. 11 each year, Veterans Day started out as a federal holiday called “Armistice Day,” celebrated on the first Monday of November. The United States Senate had set the day in 1938 to honor the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

Nearly two decades later came the name change to “Veterans Day” in order to honor the sacrifice of all veterans in all wars, including the more recent World War II and the Korean Conflict.

Today Veterans Day still honors those who fought for our country, but it has also expanded into a day of rest for many workers, when great shopping opportunities pop up, as well as a time to gather for families across the nation and a moment to ponder sacrifice and the meaning of life when it comes to those who defend the United States.

In 2001, U. S. Senate Resolution 143 designated the week of Nov. 11-17 as “National Veterans Awareness Week” so that new generations could learn about freedom and the importance of veteran recognition.

People in the military are not unusual people – usually they are the most usual until something happens that shows just how extraordinary they are in times of strife.

Military.com reported that an American survey listed the top 25 veterans in history. No. 1 was Audie Murphy, a war hero and later celebrated actor. Murphy experienced what is now known as PSTD — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — and his later life suffered greatly from the condition and its ramifications. 

But most people remember his amazing courage, his commitment and his attention to duty. That explains the reason he sits in the top spot of the survey.

Murphy was not the only veteran to find glory and to suffer so, and he will not be the last. Hence the reason so many veteran support groups gained footing in the world in the past few decades, especially here at home in the United States. When Americans come together for a cause, there is not much that can stop them.

Rounding out the rest of the Top 10 survey vets were George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Alvin York, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, Norman Schwarzkopf, Robert E. Lee, Jimmy Doolittle and Ulysses Grant. In the No. 11 spot is the actor Jimmy Stewart, whose military career was as bright as his star in Hollywood. President Ronald Reagan promoted Stewart to his final rank – the impressive Major General position. But Stewart didn’t ever think he was any different from anyone else. It’s what made him a cherished actor, though many admirers had no idea of his military experience.

The Four Chaplains were men of different faiths who calmed and secured into life boats fellow soldiers – regardless of their faith – with comfort as well as their own life jackets to escape their sinking ship. Survivors watched as the chaplains — two Protestants, one Catholic and one Jewish — clasped hands, prayed and sang hymns as the ship went down. At the beginning of the war, one had told his father goodbye by asking for prayers that he not necessarily come home safely, Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”

It wouldn’t be presumptuous to think his father approved of his son’s desire — and the result of his actions — no matter the pain it caused that father and family to lose him.