Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919. At the White House, President Woodrow Wilson spoke about how the war ended a year ago and how the soldiers had fought and endured to “uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force.”
Wilson ended his speech with: “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 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 1926, President Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation calling for the observance of Nov. 11 with appropriate ceremonies. In 1934, Congress made Nov. 11 a legal holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’ ”
In 1945, A World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks came up with the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. After all, there was already a day to remember those who had given their lives in service to their country: Memorial Day.
Weeks took the idea to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Ike liked the thought of a National Veterans Day. Weeks continued to work on the idea and stage annual celebrations until his death in 1985.
Eventually, in 1954, legislation made it through Congress to expand Armistice Day to honor all veterans and was placed on the president’s desk for his signature. That president was none other than Eisenhower, who promptly signed the bill into law on May 26. However, there would have to be an amendment.
On June 1, 1954, Congress amended the bill replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and that is how the day has been known ever since.
On Friday through Sunday, Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site will remember and honor veterans of all wars with a free multi-era program: “A Walk in Their Boots.”
The event will give visitors a chance to interact with historians and reenactors to learn about the uniforms, weaponry, encampments and equipment used through the years from the Revolutionary War to the present.
On Saturday, in addition to weapons demonstrations and military vehicles, visitors to Tipton-Haynes will be treated to two battle reenactments. At 2 p.m. a World War II battle will take place in the lower field near the Still House followed at 3:30 p.m. with a Vietnam War battle at the same location.
There will also be a series of lectures in the barn, featuring Brig. Gen. (ret.) Edward Donnelly speaking about “The Evolution of ‘Level of War’ — From Napoleon to Nangarhar;” Dr. Henry J. Antkiewicz, professor of history at ETSU, speaking about “Polish Heroes of the American Revolution;” and Dr. Stephen G. Fritz, professor of history at ETSU, speaking about “Hitler as a Military Commander.”
The event continues through Sunday with a morning worship service, followed by more demonstrations and living history presentations throughout the day.
There will be an Education Day on Friday starting at 9:30 a.m., which will be open to any student in public, private or home-schooled programs. Students from local universities are encouraged to take part in engaging the living historians on a higher level. Senior citizen groups are also encouraged to attend Friday to afford them a more relaxed atmosphere to interact with the reenactors.
Ned Jilton II is a page designer and photographer for the Times News as well as the writer of the “Marching with the 19th” Civil War series. You can contact him at [email protected]