Thursday, September 10, 2015

National Veterans Day History

National Veterans Day began in Birmingham, Alabama on November 11, 1947. Many people born and raised here don't know that, so I'm going to give you a brief history of NVD so you are aware of one of the WONDERFUL events that Birmingham enjoys.

President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. It was to honor and remember the brave warriors of WWI. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.

President Calvin Coolidge later  made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." In Birmingham, every November 11, the World Peace luncheon is held, in honor of the original intent.

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. 

On May 26, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill establishing November 11 as a holiday into law. It had been eight and a half years since Weeks held his first Armistice Day celebration for all veterans in Birmingham.

Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since.

In 1982, President Reagan honored Raymond Weeks at the White House, with the Presidential Citizenship Medal for being the driving force behind the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the "Father of Veterans Day."

Birmingham's Veterans Day parade is still the largest in the world. In Linn Park, at the northwest corner, is a memorial honoring Raymond Weeks, the founder of National Veterans Day, and every November 10, at 4:30p.m. there is a ceremonial wreath-laying at the Weeks Memorial. 

As an interesting sidenote, some people use an apostrophe in "Veterans", and it is acceptable to write "Veteran's" or "Veterans' ", but officially there is no apostrophe. It is not a day that belongs to veterans; It is a day for honoring all veterans.

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