Veterans Day a time for celebration
Nov. 10, 2002
American veterans well deserve the celebration that will unfold in their honor across the country Monday on Veterans Day 2002. Parades and speeches, memories of wars past and reminders of wars to come, and time for personal reflection on the meaning of it all are appropriate to the observance of Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
We can thank a number of veterans organizations, U.S. presidents and various sessions of Congress for the evolution of what we celebrate now as Veterans Day. It began as a day to commemorate the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.
Congress in 1926 had recognized "the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed …"
Another act of Congress approved in 1938 designated the 11th day of November in each year a legal holiday a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be known as "Armistice Day."
Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the nation's history, and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of veterans service organizations changed the word "Armistice" to "Veterans."
This had the effect of extending the day's honor to all American veterans.
After a period of some confusion as to when the day was to be celebrated, President Gerald Ford officially resolved the question on Sept. 20, 1975, when he signed Public Law 94-97, returning the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978.
Of course, the peaceful relations hoped for in the original resolution were never achieved. Again and again in World War II and in places such as Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait and, lately, Afghanistan and other points in the Middle East, American military forces fought and are still fighting for the causes of peace and freedom.
But the historical significance of the Nov. 11 date helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day:
A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
As we pause on Monday to celebrate Veterans Day, perhaps we should also rededicate ourselves to these same principles: patriotism, love of country and willing to serve and sacrifice in some way for the common good.