Today is Veterans Day, the national and state holiday where America honors the men and women who have worn the uniform of the nation’s armed forces and who have fought, and in to many instances died, to keep this country free and prosperous over the last 244 years.
Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said, “On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918, the armistice ending World War I was signed. Originally known as Armistice Day, Congress later passed a resolution signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which officially designated November 11th as Veterans Day. Americans now pause on this special day each year to recognize all those, young and old, who have served our country in uniform.”
“There are 17.4 million veterans living in the United States and nearly 400,000 in Alabama,” Roby said. “I want to extend my most sincere gratitude to everyone who has served this country and to their families. Our country is great because of the men and women who were willing to sacrifice on our behalf. My highest honor as a Member of Congress is representing and fighting for the men and women who serve us all.”
National Veterans Day honors and salutes those men and women who have served their country as members of the armed services as well as those currently wearing the uniform of the active, reserve, and National Guard forces. Banks, courthouses, government buildings, and many schools will be closed today.
Birmingham’s National Veterans Day event is the oldest and largest Veterans Day celebration in the country. Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the annual Veteran’s Day parade will be virtual this year.
The virtual Veterans Day Parade is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 4:30 p.m., the virtual event will include a mixture of live and recorded content including color guards, high school bands, drill teams, the 117th Air Refueling Wing, vintage aircrafts, floats, the Boy Scouts, the Clydesdales, military vehicles, and will end with a live broadcast fireworks show.
The event will be broadcast via nationalveteransday.org.
“Due to safety concerns, we knew the parade could not happen in its traditional format,” said Mark Ryan, president of the National Veterans Day Parade. “Despite this barrier, we wanted to continue to remember and honor our nation’s veterans while teaching others about their sacrifice, and this virtual event gives us the ability to do just that.”
Birmingham became the pioneer of the national holiday when World War II veteran and Birmingham resident Raymond Weeks had an idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans. In 1947 he led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to urge then-Army Chief of Staff General Eisenhower to create a national holiday that honored all veterans.
In 1954, Pres. Eisenhower signed legislation establishing November 11 as Veterans Day. President Ronald W. Reagan (R) honored Weeks as the driving force for the national holiday with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 at the White House.
Weeks led the first National Veterans Day Parade in 1947 in Alabama, and he continued the tradition until his death in 1985.
101 years ago, the Armistice was signed ending the “War to End All Wars”…..It did not end war, but for decades November 11 would be remembered as Armistice day. All the veterans of World War I are dead now, but their memory and their example remains. Their children fought in World War II and Korea, their grandchildren fought in Vietnam, their great grandchildren fought in Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. There is still an American combat presence in Syria and Afghanistan as well as other theaters of operations. The day that the Armistice was signed ending “The Great War” became the day that Americans honors her veterans. Birmingham was where Armistice first became Veterans Day and it is still home to the oldest Veterans Day Parade in the country, even during a global pandemic that is proving to be as costly in American lives as any war we have fought.