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Every year on November 11th, Americans come together to pay tribute to the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day, is a solemn occasion marked by parades, ceremonies, and a profound sense of gratitude. The history of Veterans Day is steeped in the rich legacy of those who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Veterans Day and its historical significance and share stories of the brave individuals it honors.
The Origins of Veterans Day
The origins of Veterans Day can be traced back to the end of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was signed, effectively ending the “war to end all wars.” The United States recognized this date as Armistice Day, dedicated to celebrating peace and honoring those who served during the war.
In 1938, Armistice Day was officially recognized as a legal holiday, but it was primarily focused on World War I veterans. However, the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War demonstrated the need for a broader approach. In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. veterans, living or deceased, and to emphasize the importance of honoring and recognizing those who have served in the military.
Stories of Courage and Sacrifice
Sergeant Alvin York (World War I): Alvin C. York, a Tennessee native, was one of the most decorated American soldiers in World War I. Despite his initial reluctance to serve due to his religious beliefs, he went on to capture 132 German soldiers. He single-handedly took out a machine gun nest, all while under heavy enemy fire.
Tuskegee Airmen (World War II): The Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American pilots who served in World War II, overcame racial segregation and discrimination to become some of the most skilled and respected fighter pilots of the war. Their determination and skill played a significant role in desegregating the U.S. military.
Kathryn Wirkus (Iraq War): Captain Kathryn Wirkus, a U.S. Army nurse, was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She received a Bronze Star for her outstanding service and commitment to treating wounded soldiers in a combat zone, showcasing the dedication of healthcare professionals serving in wartime.
The Story of Audie L. Murphy
Audie L. Murphy, one of the most decorated combat soldiers in American history, received the Medal of Honor for his exceptional bravery and leadership during World War II. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:
Medal of Honor Citation – Audie L. Murphy
Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, Company B, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division, U.S. Army
Place and Date: Near Holtzwihr, France, January 26, 1945
Entry into Service: June 30, 1942, in Dallas, Texas
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Second Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy, 01692509, 15th Infantry, Army of the United States, on 26 January 1945, near Holtzwihr, France, commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry.
Second Lieutenant Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. Second Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry.
With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Second Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to the German fire from three sides but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back.
For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate Second Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and to call for artillery fire on the enemy. He was wounded in the leg by a mortar burst, but he ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he personally killed or wounded about 50.
Second Lieutenant Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.
Second Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty reflect the highest credit upon the United States Army.
Audie Murphy’s heroic actions on that day made him a true American hero and earned him the Medal of Honor. He became a successful actor and author, sharing his war experiences with the world. Audie Murphy passed away on May 28, 1971, but his legacy as one of the most decorated soldiers in American history lives on.
Veterans Day is not just a day off work or school; it’s a day to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have served in the military. It’s a day to remember that freedom is not free and to honor the courage, sacrifice, and resilience of our veterans. The day is also an opportunity to recognize the contributions of veterans to society beyond their military service, from business leaders to educators to community volunteers.
Veterans Day not only honors the heroes of the past but also serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to support and assist veterans in their post-military lives. This includes healthcare, job opportunities, and mental health support.
As we commemorate Veterans Day, we must recognize the profound impact veterans have had on our nation’s history and the sacrifices they’ve made. From the trenches of World War I to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the stories of veterans inspire us to remember and appreciate their service. We owe a debt of gratitude to all who have served, and this annual observance is a way to repay that debt, if only in part, and to ensure that their sacrifices are never forgotten.
As the author of this article and combat veteran, I challenge every veteran when they are thanked for their service, not to get irritated but to reply with, “You’re worth it!” Nick and I both give this response when people say it to us. It’s interesting to watch people as they often become emotional when you say this. It gives them a whole new perspective on service.
What was the original reason for Veterans Day?
Veterans Day was originally established as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. The armistice that ended the war went into effect on November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m. The first Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919, with a two-minute silence at 11:00 a.m.
In 1938, the United States Congress passed a resolution making Armistice Day a federal holiday. The resolution also encouraged Americans to observe the day with parades, public meetings, and other activities to honor veterans of World War I.
In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress passed a bill changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all American veterans. The bill was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954.
Today, Veterans Day is a day to honor and thank all American veterans for their service to our country. It is a day to remember the sacrifices that veterans have made, and to recommit ourselves to supporting veterans and their families.
What are 5 facts about history of Veterans Day?
1. Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and was established to commemorate the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.
2. The holiday was officially recognized as a national holiday in the United States on May 13, 1938, and was intended to honor veterans of World War I.
3. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars, not just World War I.
4. Veterans Day is observed on November 11th each year to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.
5. Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States, and it is a day to honor and express gratitude to all military veterans who have served in the armed forces.
Why is Veterans Day on November 11?
Veterans Day is on November 11 to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany, which ended World War I hostilities on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.