DID YOU KNOW?
Birmingham, Alabama, is home to the first and longest running celebration of Veterans Day?
Thanks to a man named Raymond Weeks.
The Origins of Veterans Day
In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.
Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as “Armistice Day.”
Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was “the War to end all wars,” November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe. Sixteen and one-half million Americans took part. Four hundred seven thousand of them died in service, more than 292,000 in battle.
1946 at The Pentagon: Raymond Weeks petitions
General Dwight Eisenhower to establish National Veterans Day.
Armistice Day Changed To Honor All Veterans
The first celebration using the term Veterans Day occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947. Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized “National Veterans Day,” which included a parade and other festivities, to honor all veterans. The event was held on November 11, then designated Armistice Day. Later, U.S. Representative Edward
Rees of Kansas proposed a bill that would change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Eisenhower signed proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. Raymond Weeks received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan in November 1982. Weeks’ local parade and ceremonies are now an annual event celebrated nationwide.
On Memorial Day 1958, two more unidentified American war dead were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from the Vietnam War was placed alongside the others. The remains from Vietnam were exhumed May 14, 1998, identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, and removed for burial. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.
A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.
National Ceremonies Held at Arlington National Cemetery
The focal point for official, national ceremonies for Veterans Day continues to be the memorial amphitheater built around the Tomb of the Unknowns. At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. The nation’s tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath. The bugler plays “taps.” The rest of the ceremony takes place in the amphitheater.
Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington and elsewhere are coordinated by the President’s Veterans Day National Committee. Chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the committee represents national veterans organizations.
Governors of many states and U.S. territories appoint Veterans Day chairpersons who, in cooperation with the National Committee and the Department of Defense, arrange and promote local ceremonies.
Additional information on the history of Veterans Day, the Veterans Day National Committee, the national ceremony, a gallery of Veterans Day posters from 1978 to the present and a colorful and informative Veterans Day Teacher’s Resource Guide can be found on the Internet at
[Congressional Bills 112th Congress] [From the U.S. Government Printing Office] [H. Con. Res. 138 Introduced in House (IH)] 112th CONGRESS 2d Session H. CON. RES. 138 Recognizing Birmingham, Alabama, as the home to the first and longest running celebration of Veterans Day. _______________________________________________________________________ IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES September 20, 2012 Mr. Bachus (for himself and Ms. Sewell) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned _______________________________________________________________________ CONCURRENT RESOLUTION Recognizing Birmingham, Alabama, as the home to the first and longest running celebration of Veterans Day. Whereas November 11, 2012, is the 65th anniversary of National Veterans Day in Birmingham, Alabama; Whereas the National Veterans Day in Birmingham is the longest running celebration of Veterans Day in the United States; Whereas, on November 11, 1946, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks presented General Eisenhower a program design proposing replacing Armistice Day with a National Veterans Day 1947; Whereas the very first Veterans Day celebration was held in Birmingham by the National Veterans Day organization in 1947; Whereas President Eisenhower signed into law on June 1, 1954 the Act proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day (Public Law 83-380); Whereas, in 1954, the National Veterans Day volunteer organization, started by Raymond Weeks, expanded to organize a multiday celebration including, a Veterans Day Parade, a World Peace Luncheon, and presentation during the National Veterans Award Dinner of the National Veterans Award; Whereas these three events have been held every year since 1954; Whereas the briefing for President Reagan by Elizabeth Dole for the Presidential Citizens Medals cited Raymond Weeks as the ``Father of Veterans Day''; Whereas President Reagan recognized Raymond Weeks as the driving force behind Veterans Day while presenting Mr. Weeks with the Presidential Citizens Medal on November 11, 1982; Whereas Raymond Weeks should be recognized for his push to honor the great men and women who have served their country with a special day of recognition; and Whereas Birmingham, Alabama, should be recognized for its contributions to the institution of Veterans Day: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress hereby-- (1) recognizes Birmingham, Alabama, as the home to the first and longest running celebration of Veterans Day; (2) recognizes Raymond Weeks for his pioneering efforts in the establishment of Veterans Day; and (3) honors the sacrifices and pays tribute to the men and women in uniform who are risking life and limb at home and overseas. <all>