To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in
the country’s service and with gratitude
for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.
—President Woodrow Wilson, November 11, 1919, proclaiming the first Armistice Day
In 1954, President Eisenhower declared November 11, Veteran’s Day, changing the name from Armistice Day (established a year after the end of World War I.) He also included all men and women who have ever served as honorees.
As the nation extends its gratitude and appreciation to our men and women in uniform this November 11, the story behind our national holiday, its name, and those involved deserve recognition as well. To do this, one must visit Emporia, Kansas, 1953.
If The Shoe Fits
Shoe store owner Alvin J. King was a man whose patriotism was ripe at age 15 when
he tried to join the Navy at the end of World War I. Too young to become a sailor, his support of the military never waned. Later in life, as a business owner, Alvin got involved with American War Dads during World War II. Disappointed that those serving after
World War I were not also recognized, King embarked on a campaign to transform Armistice Day into Veterans Day. His efforts were embraced by most fellow merchants
in town, as well as Emporia’s Board of Education. On November 11, 1953, King and his champions closed their doors and observed the first “All” Veterans Day.
King’s campaign, however, did not stop there. United States Representative Edward Rees, an Emporia native, helped draft a bill establishing Veterans Day as a national holiday, with its newly christened name and breadth of honor. The bill was signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954, with both King and Rees present at the signing.
Change Of Date, Its Restoration, and Annual Ceremony
Over a decade later, the holiday was moved to the fourth Monday in October by Congressional law, enacted in 1971. However, several states returned to observing Veterans Day on November 11 for the next four years, when Congress once again
decreed it as the holiday’s official date.
Every November 11, at 11 a.m., members from each branch of the military honor our
dead at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The President places a wreath at the Tomb to the sound of “Taps” played on the bugle.
This Veteran’s Day
This year, as you hang your flags and proudly wear your red, white, and blue, remember to thank our men and women in uniform for their proud service. We honor a tradition begun nearly a century ago, forged in history, and transformed by a man and his community, who felt that all who serve deserve nothing less.