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November 11 – Veterans Day

November 11, est. 1938

Do you know the history behind Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is an official public holiday in the United States that honors military veterans each year on November 11. This day coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other countries to mark the signing of the Armistice that ended the fighting of World War I. The United States previously celebrated Armistice Day before the day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

On June 4, 1926, the United States Congress adopted a resolution requesting President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act was approved on May 13, 1938 to make the 11th of November each year a legal holiday and “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter known as Armistice Day.”

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, has the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to General Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks then went on to lead the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and held annual celebrations until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House in 1982 with the Presidential Citizenship Medal as the driving force for the national holiday.

On May 26, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill into law officially establishing the holiday through Congress, eight and a half years since Weeks held his first Armistice Day celebration for all veterans. Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans” and the day has been known as Veterans Day ever since.

Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978, it was moved back to the original date of November 11. While the legal holiday remains on November 11, if that date falls on a weekend, then organizations that formally observe the holiday normally close on the adjacent Friday or Monday.