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CHIPS Articles: Service, Valor and Sacrifice

Service, Valor and Sacrifice
A grateful nation honors its veterans
By CHIPS Magazine - November 7, 2017
Each year we celebrate Veterans Day to thank and honor all the men and women who served honorably in the military services in times of war and peace. Historically, we pay tribute to America’s veterans through national observances and local events. Wherever you are this Veterans Day spend at least a moment honoring their service and dedication.

History

World War I — known at the time as “The Great War” — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades, religious services and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m to pay tribute to America’s veterans and to give thanks for the Allies victory.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the Nov. 11 in each year a legal holiday — a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II required the greatest mobilization of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen in the nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans," according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation.”

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)), signed June 28, 1968, was intended 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. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates, according to the VA’s website.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with confusion and consternation Oct. 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of citizens, and so on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the preferences of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of which day of the week it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to Nov. 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the significance of Veterans Day which is a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good, stated the VA.

National Archives and Records Administration’s Role

The National Archives preserves the records of service members and other historic military data and photographs so that no veteran will ever be forgotten.

The National Archives and Records Administration serves veterans and their families, especially through its work at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Find out how veterans access their records to receive benefits, read about the work NARA’s preservation staff do to make these records accessible, watch historic films that staff have restored and digitized about the experiences of veterans and plan a visit to an exhibit or event near you.

A special exhibit in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery by the NARA — "Remembering Vietnam" — Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War, runs Nov. 10, 2017 to Jan. 6, 2019. It presents both iconic and recently discovered National Archives records related to 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War. They trace the policies and decisions made by the architects of the conflict and help untangle why the United States became involved in Vietnam, why it went on so long, and why it was so divisive for American society.

If you can’t make it to a local or national Veterans Day observance, you can access historic photos and videos on the NARA website.

Historic Videos
The True Glory, 1945 (restored)
Let There Be Light, 1946
Making of a Marine
The Lonely Eagles
Diary of a Sergeant, 1945
Welcome Home

Sources
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs History of Veterans Day
Veterans Day Resources at the National Archives

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect. VA website photo
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect. VA website photo

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts. VA website photo
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts. VA website photo

Veterans Day <a href="https://youtu.be/M5rpJ-tDtJg" alt='Link will open in a new window.' target='whole'> video </a> with President John F. Kennedy. National Archives
Veterans Day video with President John F. Kennedy. National Archives

Crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham take Vietnamese refugees from a small craft in the South China Sea, 1975
National Archives, General Records of the Department of the Navy
Crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham take Vietnamese refugees from a small craft in the South China Sea, 1975 National Archives, General Records of the Department of the Navy
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