This approaching Nov. 11 will be Veterans Day. What is the history and law that established this day as a holiday?
The holiday date is rooted in the date of the cease-fire ending the First World War between Germany and the Western Allies on Nov. 11, 1918. The U.S. Congress passed a nonbinding resolution in 1926 asking then-President Calvin Coolidge to give annual proclamations calling for the observance of Nov. 11 to be accompanied with appropriate ceremonies.
In 1938, Congress passed legislation making Nov. 11 a federal holiday called “Armistice Day” to celebrate world peace. Celebrating world peace? In 1938? On the eve of what would become the greatest world war ever waged.
With the explosion of the number of U.S. veterans who came out of the Second World War (and the Korean War), in May 1954 Congress passed another bill redesignating the Nov. 11 holiday to celebrate all American veterans. Immediately after passage, it amended the bill to call the holiday “Veterans Day” instead of “Armistice Day.”
It was held every Nov. 11 until 1971 when Congress really stepped in it by passing the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It moved Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day to certain Mondays of their respective months — except Veterans Day, which got dumped into the fourth Monday of October.
This has been noted by some observers as the business lobby on Capitol Hill kowtowing legislators to the idea of the three-day weekend — which supported vacation businesses. To heck with tradition and history. Money is the lifeblood of America.
The federal government began catching heat on the new Veterans Day schedule, and in 1975 Congress reset Veterans Day to every Nov. 11, effective in 1978. If Nov. 11 falls on a weekend, agencies, institutions or organizations that observed the holiday will close on the Friday or Monday most adjacent to the respective Nov. 11 date.
It should be noted Veterans Day is different than Memorial Day. Memorial Day is to commemorate those who died in service to the nation. Veterans Day is to celebrate our fellow humans who are still with us but no longer wear the U.S. uniform.
It should also be noted that federal holiday legislation is not binding on state governments or anything not involving federal operations. Only federal employees and the District of Columbia are directly affected. Incidental to the shutdown of the Federal Reserve for Veterans Day (except when it falls on a Saturday then the Fed remains open the previous Friday), almost all banks will perforce close on that holiday.
All states typically follow the federal lead anyway and have passed their own holiday legislation for their governmental employees correlated to the federal holidays. For several decades following the Civil War, however, some parts of the South refused to observe the Fouth of July. Sore losers, apparently.
While enjoying your day off on Monday, Nov. 11, pause for a moment to reflect on those who were at one time warriors for the nation.
Money may be the lifeblood of the country, but its service men and women are its skin — which bears the brunt of the slings and arrows of national foes.