By Monica F. Helms
Every November 11th, the US celebrates Veterans Day, a day to honor all of those who served in our military, all of those who are currently serving and especially all of those who died serving our country. This is a special year for different reasons. For the first time in history, gay, lesbian and bisexual veterans and service members can celebrate Veterans Day openly because of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Sadly, trans service members still cannot celebrate openly.
Another reason is the date, 11/11/11. Many people do not know the significance on why Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11, or why Veterans Day parades start on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of that day. It all came about ninety-three years ago in France.
On November 11, 1918, the armistice to end World War I went into affect, on the eleventh hour of that day. The 11th minute of the 11th hour was never officially recognized, but many Americans use that to extend the “eleventh” number pattern. On November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the day to commemorate Armistice Day.
On May 3, 1938, Congress declared Armistice Day a legal holiday for federal workers. On June 1, 1954, we changed the name to Veterans Day, after America had just finished WWII and the Korean War. They changed the name in order to commemorate all veterans who served this country in all wars. On June 28, 1968, Veterans Day was made a floating holiday to give federal workers a three-day weekend, but that didn’t last long. Because the day was considered one of historical and patriotic significance, on September 20, 1975, the holiday was put back on November 11 of each year.
This year, not only will Veterans Day officially start on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, but this will be the first time ever it will also be on the eleventh year. There are no American survivors of WWI to witness this special day. The last American WWI veteran was Frank Buckles, who died February 27, 2011. On 11/11/11 at 11:11, he will be one of those we will remember and honor. Thank you for your service, Frank.
Thank you for the service of all of those who have worn the uniform of our nation. Amongst them are my grandfather, all of my uncles and one of my aunts. My father served in three wars and in three branches of the military. I served eight years in the Navy, my brother retired after 20 years in the Army and his son is currently in the Air Force. I want to especially thank my oldest son, who did fours years in the Marines and two tours in Iraq. Veterans Day means a lot to our family.