Veterans Day Talking Points
Romans 13:7
November 11, 2021

As we commemorate Veterans Day on November 11, it is fitting that we look back and remember the history behind the holiday and why we honor our military service members. The Apostle Paul writes: “Pay to all what is owed to them… respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Certainly, veterans, those who have defended our freedoms, are deserving of our honor, our respect, and our profound gratitude.

As we think about Veterans Day, let’s answer some key questions.

What Is the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Most Americans don’t know the difference between the two. They think both days are to honor members of the military, and that much is true. However, there is a key difference between the two days as explained by the U.S. Defense Department:

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle. Veterans Day honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace — dead or alive — although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.[1]

So, there we have the key difference: Memorial Day honors those who have given their lives while Veterans Day is a day when we honor any and all veterans, living or dead, but with the accent on honoring the living.

How Did Veterans Day Get Started?

The history of Veterans Day starts over a 100 years ago when, on November 11, 1918, World War I came to a close. In fact, the fighting stopped on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, marking an end to that war. While the Treaty of Versailles wasn't signed until June 28, 1919, we go back to that day, November 11, because that is when an “armistice”—or temporary cessation of hostilities—was agreed to at 11:00 AM at Compiégne, France, between Germany and the Allied nations, of which America was a part.

On the home front, the armistice was celebrated in the streets. Massachusetts shoe laster James Hughes described the scene in Boston:

 There was a lot of excitement when we heard about the Armistice…some of them old fellas was walkin’ on the streets with open Bibles in their hands. All the shops were shut down. I never seen the people so crazy…confetti was a-flying in all directions…I’ll never forget it.[2]

Yet the official observance didn’t technically begin until U.S. President Woodrow Wilson commemorated Armistice Day a year later on November 11, 1919. On the occasion, he declared:

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 the nations…[3]

Originally, the “Armistice Day” celebration included parades and public meetings following a two-minute suspension of business at 11:00 AM. However, that was only the beginning of the holiday’s roots. Later, in 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a concurrent resolution, a measure that doesn’t carry the force of law, but signed by both chambers, recognizing the end of the war and how the federal government proposed to celebrate it:

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.[4] 

 President Calvin Coolidge issued that Proclamation on November 3, 1926, calling for “thanksgiving and prayer” and inviting all Americans to “observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies expressive of our gratitude.”[5] On May 13, 1938, Congress made November 11 a legal holiday known as “Armistice Day.”[6]

Yet it was on November 11, 1947, that Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized the first “National Veterans Day” in Birmingham, Alabama, which included a parade and other festivities, to honor all veterans. On June 1, 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed renaming Armistice Day as “Veterans Day.”[7] On October 8, 1954, Eisenhower declared in his Veterans Day Proclamation:

On that day, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.[8]

 From that time on, November 11 officially became a day to remember veterans of all U.S. wars and battles. While Veterans Day went through some other iterations in subsequent years, moving to Monday to make for a long weekend, but eventually it landed back on its original day—November 11—on which it is honored today.

 Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?

The answer is fairly obvious. We celebrate Veterans Day to honor members of our armed services for the many sacrifices—large and small—they make each and every day to preserve and protect our liberty. Just survey our rich history and heritage of freedom: From the Minute Men who were out-manned and out-gunned by the British on Lexington Green and later when the tide was turned at Concord Bridge, to General Washington and his ill-clad men enduring the harsh winter at Valley Forge during the American Revolution, to the rocket’s red glare over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, to the blood soaked fields around Gettysburg where brother fought against brother, to the Doughboys in the trenches facing sniper fire and mustard gas in World War I, to the Sailors who were bombed at Pearl Harbor, to the Soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy, to the Airmen who went on bombing raids over Tokyo, to the Marines who fought on the shores of Iwo Jima, on the frigid hills of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Iraq, and the rugged mountains of Afghanistan—these Patriots secured our liberty at a high price. Therefore, they are all worthy of our honor, respect, and gratitude.

When I was a sophomore in college and had recently given my life to serve in full-time ministry, my grandfather William E. McCravey (357768) died of lung cancer. Thankfully, he came to Christ before he died, but he was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy. He served on the USS Kretchmer (DE-329), which was an Edsall-class destroyer escort that provided protection against submarine and air attack for Navy vessels and convoys in the North Atlantic. They first protected the Caribbean, then screened shipping headed for Italy for the D-Day build-up, and then went on five escort runs to protect troop transports between New York and the United Kingdom. They were constantly on the alert for German U-boats and, when they got close to England, they were strafed by Stuka dive bombers.

Like most all WWII vets, he didn’t talk much about it. He just did his duty, and was blessed to make it home and raise a family and enjoy his freedom. But at his funeral, his coffin was draped by the flag, which was presented to my grandmother by a local contingent from the American Legion there to honor my grandfather’s service. The family received a condolence certificate signed by President Reagan. That flag and certificate are now displayed in my office in D.C. That memorabilia serves as a constant reminder to me that we should honor our veterans—not only on Veterans Day, but every day.

 Here are some practical things you and your family might do to honor a veteran and/or the family:
 
  • Do a service project or buy a meal for veterans and their families.
  • Have your children interview a VFW veteran and report back on what life was like in combat.
  • Thank God for our active service and retired military, for the sacrifices they made and continue to make to keep us safe and free.
 
[1] Katie Lange, “5 Facts to Know About Veterans Day,” U.S. Department of Defense, November 5, 2018, accessed November 9, 2021, https://www.defense.gov/News/Feature-Stories/story/Article/1675470/5-facts-to-know-about-veterans-day/.
[2] “Today in History - November 11,” Library of Congress, accessed November 9, 2021, https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/november-11/.
[3] Albert Shaw, ed., The Messages and Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 2 vols., (New York: Review of Reviews, 1924), 2:1137.
[4] Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, 69th Congress (44 Stat. 1982), accessed on November 9, 2021, https://www.congress.gov/bound-congressional-record/1926/06/04.
[5] “Proclamation—Armistice Day, 1926,” The American Presidency Project, accessed November 9, 2021, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-armistice-day-1926.
[6] Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351), accessed November 9, 2021, https://www.congress.gov/bound-congressional-record/1938/05/13.
[7] Congressional Act (68 Stat. 168), accessed November 9, 2021, https://www.congress.gov/bound-congressional-record/1954/06/01.
[8] “Proclamation 3071—Veteran’s Day, 1954,” The American Presidency Project, accessed November 9, 2021, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-3071-veterans-day-1954.