History

10 Things You should know for Veterans Day

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With the election behind us, we have a special opportunity to come together once again and honor the men and women who give daily of themselves in the defense of our country. Veterans Day is an important time in American history, take a look at these 10 facts to get to know Veterans Day a little better.

1. Armistice Day

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Several countries around the world observe the end of World War I as a holiday. The first observance was on the one-year anniversary of the Armistice ending WWI on November 11, 1918.

President Wilson first commemorated Armistice Day with 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 the 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 the nations…”

2. The Name Changed

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The name of the nationally recognized holiday didn’t begin as “Veterans Day,” it was formally known as Armistice Day. In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to honor the veterans of WWI, WWII, and the Korean War.

Despite the name change the date remained on November 11th due to its historical importance. President Eisenhower made Veterans Day official with the signing of HR7786.

3. The Date Changed

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A short time after the passing of the “Uniform Holiday Bill,” the date of Veterans Day was shifted to the fourth Monday in October. The bill hoped to encourage more travel by granting four, three-day weekends to federal employees: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day.

After decades of celebrating Veterans Day on November 11, many people did not agree with the decision. The national holiday eventually returned to November 11th by President Ford, which became effective in 1978.

4. Raymond Weeks

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If you don’t know Raymond Weeks, it’s okay, many people don’t. Weeks is widely regarded as the “Father of Veterans Day.” Remember, President Wilson began Armistice Day to commemorate the end of WWI. Eventually, it became the day we honor all veterans of America’s armed services, thanks to the work of Raymond Weeks.

In 1945, after returning home from WWII, Weeks felt it was important to honor veterans from all wars, not just WWI. Weeks’ journey eventually led him to the Army Chief of Staff, General Dwight Eisenhower. Eventually after becoming president, Eisenhower, made the name change official in 1954.

In 1982, President Reagan awarded Weeks the Presidential Citizens Medal for his hard work and commitment to honoring our nation’s veterans.

5. California Leads the Way

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According to a 2013 report released by the NCVAS, California is home to the highest number of veterans. Over 1.8 million veterans call the state home. Texas and Florida are a close second and third in the rankings, over 1 million veterans reside in each state.

6. Marine Corps

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The Continental Congress established the Marine Corps on November 10, 1775, making the USMC older than America itself. There are currently over 184,000 Marines serving our country around the world.

Legend has it that the first Marine Corps recruitment efforts took place in a Philadelphia bar named “Tun Tavern,” with promises of beer and adventure. The first amphibious mission for the Marines took place in the Spring of 1776 when 220 Marines successfully captured two British forts on New Providence Island, capturing much-needed supplies for America’s Revolutionary War effort.

7. Navy

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According to Navy.mil, there are currently 327,503 active duty Navy Personnel and 108,864 ready reserves. The Navy’s arsenal includes 272 ships and over 3,700 aircraft. George Washington is considered the “father of the Navy” and was a huge proponent of a naval force to assist the war effort and disrupt British shipping lanes.

The Navy was temporarily disbanded following the Revolutionary War but was brought back a few years later to help fight pirates.

8. Army

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According to the 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength, at the end of 2015, the US Army had 490,000 active soldiers, 202,000 reserve soldiers, and 350,000 Army National Guard soldiers.

Women’s official capacity with the Army didn’t begin until the early 1900s with the establishment of the Navy Nurse Corps at the onset of WWI, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t participating in other ways.

Women have a long history with the Army, even as early as the Revolutionary War where Mary Ludwig Hays replaced her husband at a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth. Also, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to join the battle for independence.

Many U.S. Presidents also have military service. Most early presidents were militia men, but the WWI and WWII eras brought many military leaders to the White House. The most recent Army veteran to served as President was Ronald Reagan who served as an Army Captain from 1942-1945.

9. Air Force

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Boasting over 310,000 airmen, the U.S. Air Force is the third largest military branch in the military. The Air Force officially began in 1947 when they were separated from the Army, making them their own branch of the U.S. Military.

The Air Force has its fair share of celebrities and the presidents, but few people know the great actor Jimmy Stewart was also in the Air Force and was quite successful.

Having established himself in Hollywood, Stewart eventually was drafted into the military in 1941. At 6’3” the lanky Stewart only weighed 138lbs, putting him a few pounds below the required weight limit. Despite several hangups, Stewart persevered and after some eating and convincing he managed to punch his ticket to the Army Air Corps.

Stewart would go on to fly 20 combat missions over Berlin, Brunswick, Bremen, Frankfurt, and Schweinfurt. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and several other citations. Stewart ended his accomplished military career in 1968 as a Brigadier General.

10. Coast Guard

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While the Coast Guard regularly is left out of many “military” related conversations, it is important to remember they serve a vital role in our ports, waters, and oceans.

The Coast Guard is a product of Alexander Hamilton who wanted a force which could guard our ports, enforce maritime law, and collect tariffs. After several incarnations, Hamilton’s group eventually merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service forming the modern Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard currently has 42,000 active members, 7,900 reservists, and 32,000 auxiliarists forming what would rank as the 12th largest naval force in the world.

On a day like Veterans Day, we can all forget about our glee or dismay of the recent election results, and come together under the banner of “Americans.” Today, we remember those who give their lives, time, blood, sweat, and tears to protect the freedoms we enjoy every day.

To all our men and women in the military, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and support you, whether at home or abroad.