On Sunday, we celebrate Veterans Day. Our veterans - those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today - deserve our thanks.
President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first Veterans Day - known then as Armistice Day - in 1919. World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in Versailles, France. Fighting had ceased seven months earlier, when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918 is generally regarded as the end of "the war to end all wars."
Originally, the day was observed with parades and public meetings. Business was to be suspended briefly at 11 a.m. In 1938, Armistice Day was approved as a legal holiday set aside to honor veterans of World War I. Following World War II, which required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation's history, and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans" to honor American veterans of all wars.
In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays - Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day. The intent was that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreation and cultural activities. Many states did not agree with the decision and continued to celebrate holidays on their original dates.
Veterans Day returned to Nov. 11 in 1978 after President Ford signed Public Law 94-97 in 1975. The restoration preserves the historical significance of the date, helping us focus on the important purpose of Veterans Day - a celebration to honor America's veterans for their love of country, patriotism and willingness to serve.
Our veterans should be saluted not just on Sunday, but every day of the year for the sacrifices they valiantly made on our behalf. Sunday is their day; please take the time to thank a veteran for the freedom you continue to enjoy today.