Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the patriotism, bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who serve in our nation’s military. But how many of us know the history of why November 11th was chosen for this holiday? I am certain that we studied something about it in middle school, but I couldn’t remember a lot of the details about this special day. So with a little research here is a brief version of what I found.
World War I
When World War I began, the United States declared itself neutral. Even though neutral, American companies still did business with the British. Some Americans went off to join armies abroad. But Americans who crossed the Atlantic, put themselves at risk from German submarine attack. On May 7,1915 that’s exactly what happened. A German U-boat torpedoed the RMS Lusitania, killing more than 120 Americans. Even though President Woodrow Wilson told a joint session of Congress that the United States must remain neutral, on April 2,1917, President Wilson went back to congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. American intervention came nearly three years after the war began.
America Enters the Great War
On April 6,1917, the United States officially entered World War I, the war that historians say changed the world and our nation forever. In the short time the United States was in the war (one year and six months) over 117,000 Americans lost their lives and another 202,000 were wounded. Known at the time as “The Great War” it officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28,1919 in the Palace of Versailles in France. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice (a temporary stop of hostilities between the Allied forces and Germany) went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. So November 11, 1918 is usually regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars”.
Armistice Day Proclaimed
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first celebration of Armistice Day when he spoke these words:
“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 great gratitude for the victory . . .”
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades, public meetings, and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 am. The United States Congress officially reorganized the day when it passed a concurrent resolution that stated in part:
“The recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace and goodwill . . .”
The resolution also requested that the President issue a proclamation calling upon officials to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11, Armistice Day, and invite all the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places with appropriate ceremonies.
In 1954, after World War II, the 83rd Congress (at the urging of veteran service organizations) amended the act by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans”. With the approval of the change, November 11 became a day to honor all service men and women who serve their country.
Honoring All Who Serve
There are many Americans who confuse Memorial Day (observed in May) with Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors service members who died in service to our country or died as a result of injuries that happened during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor the living who served honorably in the military – both in wartime and peace.
How To Celebrate Veterans
2017 marks the Centennial Anniversary of the United States entry into World War I. The Tulsa Historical Society and Museum has opened an exhibit called “The Great War: Tulsans During World War I”. The museum is located at 2445 S. Peoria Ave. in Tulsa and is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday. For more information you can call 918-712-9484 or visit www.tulsahistory.org.
This Veterans Day go to a parade, fly the flag, say a prayer for our great nation, or take a veteran to dinner. The following is a list of local Tulsa restaurants that has special offers for veterans. But more importantly, take the opportunity to tell a veteran how much you appreciate their bravery and sacrifice so that we can live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Restaurant Deals for Veterans Day
To show their gratitude to our veterans, many restaurants across the nation offer daily discounts of 10 – 20 percent for veterans and active duty members who show a military ID. Here a few restaurants that offer veterans and active duty personnel free food items or even entire meals on Veterans Day, Saturday November 11th, 2017. Be prepared to show military ID or other proof of service.
Author: Mary Covey
Mary Covey is a long time member of Bixby’s First Baptist who volunteers her time to guest write for our blog. Mary is an expert quilter, published author, and proud grandmother.