This month I wanted to take a little detour from leadership and management topics. I wanted to use this month’s column to go over a bit of history about Veterans Day. Many people don’t know enough about this special day that is important to veterans.
Let’s start with the current purpose of Veterans Day. It is dedicated to honoring military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It began as a result of World War I, or as it was called in 1918, The Great War.
The war effectively ceased with the implementation of an armistice; a temporary cessation of hostilities. The war officially ended upon the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was signed on November 11, 1918. In fact, it was signed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day. Originally, the concept was for all business and activity to be suspended for two minutes beginning at 11 a.m., with celebrations in the form of parades and public meetings. In 1920, on the second anniversary of the armistice, the allied countries of France and the United Kingdom held ceremonies honoring their unknown dead from the war.
In America, church groups lobbied President Wilson to establish the Sunday nearest Armistice Day to be the day on which it was celebrated. Sunday services would be dedicated to the interest of international peace.
In 1921, the U.S. Congress declared November 11, 1921, to be a legal federal holiday. Congress also passed legislation approving the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. November 11th was chosen for the date of the ceremony dedicating the tomb.
In 1926, Congress adopted a resolution directing the President to issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of Armistice Day. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s most states also established November 11 as a legal holiday.
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On May 13, 1938 Congress passed legislation making November 11 a legal federal holiday, called Armistice Day. However, at the time, the U.S. had no national holidays. This was because states retained the right to designate their own holidays. The federal holiday only applied to federal employees and District of Columbia.
During 1941 to 1945 and from 1950 to 1953 World War II and the Korean War created millions more war veterans, while Armistice Day only referred to the veterans of World War I. So, on June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law, which called for the fourth Monday in October to be the new date for observance of Veterans Day. The was to be effective in 1971. From 1971 to 1975 Veterans Day was held on the fourth Monday in October, except for the states of Mississippi and South Dakota; they stayed with November 11. Eventually other states changed their observances back to November 11.
In 1975, Congress once again passed legislation to return the federal holiday back to November 11. That change was to take place in 1978. This was based solely on popular support throughout the nation.
Now let’s talk a minute about the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans day is simply to appreciate the service and sacrifices made by living military veterans. You can show appreciation by thanking veterans for their service. Many establishments provide discounts or other perks for veterans on that day.
Memorial Day had its roots in the Civil War when local women placed flowers on the graves of Gettysburg soldiers. Remembering and honoring service members who died in service to the country is the purpose of Memorial Day. We most often think of those who died in combat. However, there are many that have died in training missions or not while engaged in hostile actions.
The thing that is similar between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is that whether living of deceased, all veterans signed a contract. The veterans agreed to carry out their orders up to and including putting their lives on the line.
Currently there are about 18 million veterans in the U.S. from pre-World War II through today. That’s less than seven percent of the population. This Veterans Day thank a vet for their service. Have a recognition ceremony in the workplace. These are courageous men and women who deserve one day of remembrance.
If you are a veteran in crisis, or know of one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text message to 838255.
Go forth and do great things.
This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.
About the Author: Tom Moriarty
Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alidade-mer.