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Veterans Group Wants Return of 'Armistice Day'

Armistice Day, Nov 11, 1923, at Arlington National Cemetery, with Secretary of War John Weeks, Pres. Calvin Coolidge, and Asst. Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt paying tribute to the Unknown Soldier. (Library of Congress photo)
Armistice Day, Nov 11, 1923, at Arlington National Cemetery, with Secretary of War John Weeks, Pres. Calvin Coolidge, and Asst. Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt paying tribute to the Unknown Soldier. (Library of Congress photo)

As veterans groups go, Veterans For Peace is small in number -- about 3,500 members across the country.

But for the past five years, at least, the group has acted big -- pressing its members to ring bells on Nov. 11 to mark Armistice Day, the precursor to Veterans Day, to reclaim the day for what they say it was originally intended: marking an end to war and a call for peace.

"Over the years, Veterans Day has become more about glorifying military service rather than really looking at the sacrifice and looking at [alternatives] to war," VFP Executive Director Michael McPhearson said on Tuesday.

By re-invoking Armistice Day -- adopted by U.S. and Western European countries after World War I -- Nov. 11 would honor soldiers who fought but also stress the need for peace, said McPhearson, who served with the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the Persian Gulf War.

Other veterans groups contacted by Military.com rejected VFP's argument.

Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis said McPhearson's group is wrong about Veterans Day. It is about honoring the men and women who served in uniform, he said.

"It does not glorify war," Davis said.

Though the U.S. began observing Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919 -- a year after the Armistice -- it was in 1926 that Congress, officially recognizing the end of the war, declared the date should be "commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations."

But with World War II and the Korean War, the U.S. moved to extend a day of honor to veterans of those conflicts. In June 1954, Congress struck "Armistice" from the original legislation and replaced it with "Veterans," according to the Veterans Affairs Department's history of Veterans Day. President Dwight Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation that same year.

Jeff Roy, chairman of the board for the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, does not want to see a return to Armistice Day.

"It's Veterans Day [today], but it's known that is going to be the 11th month, the 11th day and the 11th hour," the date and time when the Armistice agreement went into effect ending World War I, he said. "We can keep that in the history without reverting back to the name."

The country now has Memorial Day for those who died in war, he said, and Veterans Day for all those who served.

"And I think for Vietnam veterans like myself … who were not recognized for so many years, were not treated well when we came home -- and not even wanted by other veterans groups … it's important for us that this day be remembered for all the veterans."

--Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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Veterans Day