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Meet The Father of Veterans Day – Raymond Weeks!

Every November 11th, we celebrate Veterans Day to honor all the veterans who have defended the United States in peace and war, service members who helped keep America a free and safe nation.

Though most of us know this day and what it stands for, many of us are unaware of its origination under a different name and the Navy veteran who prompted the change so that Veterans Day would commemorate all veterans.

Armistice Day - The First Veterans Day

On November 11th of 1918, Germany and the Allies signed a ceasefire agreement signaling the end of World War I.

This ceasefire occurred at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” and was cause for celebration throughout the world as the real moment when World War I ended.

Finalization of the end of World War I took place a few months later with the sighing of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1919, countries across the world celebrated the events of the prior year with a celebration to recognize the ceasefire and honor the war dead, calling that day Armistice Day.

Then-President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day in America as well, with the first commemoration happening in 1919.

Raymond Weeks' Petition For A National Veterans Day

Armistice Day would go on to be officially named a national holiday years later in 1926 and then a Federal holiday in 1938, yet over these years it was always recognized as a day to commemorate the peace that resulted from the ceasefire as well as all the deceased WWI veterans who served during that time.

It was a World War II Navy veteran named Raymond Weeks who pointed out in 1946 that since the United States already celebrated Memorial Day in May to remember fallen military members and World War II had been fought in the interim, the significance of the holiday should be expanded.

He petitioned in 1947 to then-Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower that November 11 should commemorate all veterans living and dead, not just WWI participants, and held the first National Veterans Day event that year in his hometown of Birmingham Alabama.

Veterans Day Becomes Official

For eight years, Weeks continued to petition the military and Congress to change the designation of Armistice Day to a national Veterans Day to remember veterans of all wars, both those who were deceased as well as those living who had served in one of the branches of the military.

He headed a committee that was eventually successful in getting a bill sponsored and submitted to Congress by Kansas Rep. Edward Rees in 1954.

Gen. Eisenhower was President by that time and after Congressional approval of the bill, it was signed by President Eisenhower into law on June 1, 1954.

November 11, 1954 was the first recognized Veterans Day celebrated in the United States thanks to the effort and dedication of Raymond Weeks.

Weeks was eventually given the Presidential Citizenship Medal by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 for his contribution to this significant veterans' holiday.

After passing in 1985, a memorial in Weeks’ honor was established at Linn Park in Birmingham Alabama where ceremonies are held every year in his name on Veterans Day.

Join Us As We Honor Those Who Served!

This Veterans Day weekend, come join us at the Museum of the American GI as we honor American veterans with our presentation of History In Motion, a living history presentation of military vehicles and weaponry that were a part of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.

This action-packed two-day event will feature demonstrations of an extensive collection of authentic, functionally-restored vehicles from these wars including tanks, half-tracks, HUMVEEs, and more.

Activities include artillery demonstrations, tank rides, half-track rides, paintball machine gun shooting, flamethrower demonstration, Veterans Day ceremonies, food, refreshments, and more.

Share With Us In Honoring Our Country's Veterans!