By Pam Johnson

Veterans Day celebrations have a long history in the United States spanning back to 1919 following the first world war. Veterans Day began as “Armistice Day” to commemorate the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement to end World War I. The armistice, a peace agreement between the warring countries, was signed November 11, 1918, and fighting ceased the same day at 11 a.m. Armistice Day differed from Memorial Day, as a date to thank those Americans who had served in and survived the Great War (World War I). World War I was considered the “war to end all wars.” Armistice Day became a federal holiday on May 13, 1938, a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.

Following World War II, Alvin King, uncle to veteran John Cooper, who perished in the war, asked his congressman to help change the holiday’s name to Veteran’s Day, to honor all veterans who served in war. On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill to rename Armistice Day – Veterans Day. Eisenhower’s proclamation states in part “let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

The most recent change to the observance of Veterans Day was President Biden’s proclamation (October 29, 2021) designating November officially as “National Veterans and Military Families Month.” November veterans’ celebrations will now acknowledge the service and sacrifices that both veterans and their families offer to all of us. The proclamation states in part “America has the greatest Armed Forces in the history of the world. To those who serve and those that serve alongside them — their families and caregivers — we owe a debt we can never fully repay. During National Veterans and Military Families Month, we recognize and thank them for their indispensable contributions and immeasurable sacrifices in support of our national security.”

Veterans Day is one of two patriotic American holidays that are observed on their original dates – the other being Independence Day. All other patriotic holidays were moved to Monday holidays. Veterans Day was originally included in the Uniform Holidays bill, however, following protest against the date change, it was removed from that list of holidays.

Please join us this Veterans Day at Reeves Library for the unveiling of a new exhibit of the Moravian Alumni Veterans Oral History project. This exhibit illustrates Moravian historical military service from World War I through today. The main focus of the exhibit is to showcase our Moravian veterans’ personal stories about their military experiences. To listen to the veterans’ oral histories, visit our website.

It was my honor and privilege to interview Moravian alumni veterans for the Veterans Oral History Project. While Moravian alumni came to military service under differing circumstances, all acknowledged the impact military service had on their lives, and also on their family’s lives. Each unique perspective gives the listener the opportunity to better understand the varying roles needed in military organizations and to understand the sacrifices these individuals have made. Veterans who served in different wars share similar experiences in their boot camp training but the era in which they served affects how they communicate their experiences. This collection of personal stories will provide faculty and students with many topics for research. Topics could include the selective service (the draft) vs. enlistment, “just war,” a comparison of veterans communication styles from different eras, the history of a war as it relates to a veterans’ experiences, a comparison of different individual oral histories, and more. Reeves librarians are available to assist with research projects related to this important oral history collection.

For further information about Veterans Day, see these resources:

Books: Armistice Day

Best, Nicholas. The Greatest Day in History: How, on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month, the First World War Finally Came to an End. Perseus Books Group, 2009

Veterans Day

Henderson, Helene. Patriotic Holidays of the United States: An Introduction to the History, Symbols, and Traditions Behind the Major Holidays and Days of Observance. Omnigraphics, 2006.

Works Cited

Biden, Joseph R., Jr. “A Proclamation on National Veterans and Military Families Month, 2021.” The White House, 29 Oct. 2021. Accessed 2 November 2021.

Henderson, Helene. Patriotic Holidays of the United States: An Introduction to the History, Symbols, and Traditions Behind the Major Holidays and Days of Observance. Omnigraphics, 2006.

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