Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: Thanking our Veterans

senator joey hensley

   Most veteran issues are handled through the federal government in Washington, but I believe that anything we can do at the state level should be done. Some Americans confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. What’s more, some Americans don’t know why we commemorate our Veterans on November 11th.

   It’s important that all Americans know the history of Veterans Day so that we can honor our former service members properly. Both holidays celebrate our veterans’ service, but with one significant difference. Memorial Day honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military- in wartime or peacetime. Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans.

   Veterans Day, formally known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11th, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11th was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.” As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.

   In 1954, after having been through World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress- at the urging of the veterans service organizations- amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1st, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

   In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date.

   The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25th, 1971. Finally on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its originally date of November 11th, beginning in 1978. Since then, the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on November 11th.

   If the November 11th holiday falls on a non-workday- Saturday or Sunday- the holiday is observed by the federal government on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday). State and local government closings are determined locally, and non-government businesses can close or remain open as they see fit, regardless of federal, state, or local government operation determinations.

   Most towns and many churches plan ceremonies to honor our Veterans during the week of Veterans Day and I would like to encourage everyone to take some time to thank them for their service to us and our Great Country. Especially at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month let us show these brave men and women, who have offered to give the greatest gift of all: that we appreciate them.