While Veterans Day began as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’,” we now set aside November 11th as a time to honor our military men and women as a national thank you to all who served and are serving our country.
Armistice Day was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in a message one year after the end of World War I. In it he stated, “To us in America the reflection 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 nations.”
In June, 1924, Congress requested a resolution from President Calvin Coolidge to deliver an annual proclamation for the observance of November 11th with “appropriate ceremonies.”
Congress approved an Act on May 13, 1938 making each November 11th a legal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
In 1945, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Birmingham, Alabama, determined all veterans, not just those who served in WWI, should be celebrated. He led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who also supported the idea of a national Veterans Day. In many ways, Mr. Weeks is the “Father of Veterans Day” as we know it today.
The first national celebration was held in Alabama and led by Mr. Weeks.
On May 26, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill establishing Armistice Day as a national holiday. Just a week later, Congress amended the new law by changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
In accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. However, seven years later it was returned to November 11th, but celebrated on either Friday or Monday if it occurs on the weekend.
How can we say thank you to all who served?
Many who served, especially those on ships, were exposed to asbestos in addition to the dangers of their service. From WWII through Vietnam, veterans faced this unseen danger. Many ships continued in service long after Vietnam. In fact, of the almost 3,000 Americans diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma annually, a significant percentage of them served in the U.S. Navy.
Though the asbestos fibers were unseen, they were throughout the ships: fireproofing, steam lines, pumps, boilers, condensers, evaporators, distillers, turbines, deck material, and electrical equipment.
Since there can be 50 years between exposure and diagnosis, service men and women still suffer from diseases brought about through exposure on ships. In those same years, those at home were also exposed through building materials or other occupations.
Banning asbestos in the United States is long overdue. Let your voice be heard by contacting the EPA and letting them know you want a ban. There is no safe level of exposure. While we can’t turn back the clock for our military men and women who suffered exposure, we can say “thank you” by working to prevent exposure to their children and grandchildren. Click here to find out how you can be heard.