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Holiday has evolved to honor all veterans

Editor's Note: A group of Citrus County residents recently formed to raise funds for a Florida World War II Memorial. Ann Burch, chairwoman of the committee, has written a series of articles highlighting various people and events from that era in American history.

Veterans Day in Citrus County this year is exceptional. Patriotism is again at an all-time high as it has been many times in the past. We salute all those who served.

On behalf of the Citrus County Ad Hoc Florida World War II Memorial Committee, I would like to offer this tribute to our veterans and to America during this special time in our history.

Now, a bit of the history of Veterans Day.

It all began with a resolution from Congress on June 4, 1926. The resolution recognized Nov. 11 as the commemoration date to be honored with thanksgiving, prayer and activities "designed to perpetuate peace through goodwill and mutual understanding between nations."

Twenty-seven states declared by legislation that Nov. 11 would be a legal holiday and they called on the president of the United States to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag on all government buildings on that date. They also called on the president to invite Americans to observe the day in schools, churches and other locations with ceremonies. Armistice Day was Nov. 11, 1918, the end of World War I.

Nov. 11 was made a legal holiday by an Act of Congress _ a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day. The day was set mainly to honor those who served in World War I, but this changed in 1954.

World War II had ended with the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in our nation's history. American forces had fought in Korea. Veterans' service organizations around the country urged that the 1938 Act of Armistice Day be changed by omitting Armistice and replacing the word with Veterans.

With this change and approval, Nov. 11 became a day to honor our veterans of all wars.

Also in 1954, President Eisenhower issued a proclamation designating the administrator of Veterans Affairs as chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee and requesting heads of all departments and agencies of the executive branch of our government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.

The Honorable Harvey V. Higley, administrator of Veterans Affairs, became the first designated chairman. It was decided in 1958 that this proclamation was sufficient to appoint future administrators because the original proclamation had established the National Committee.

Fast forwarding to 1968, the Uniforms Holiday Bill became effective on June 28, enabling a three-day weekend for federal employees of specific holidays. These were: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day. These were scheduled to be celebrated on Mondays, but because some states did not agree with this system, they continued to observe the holidays on their original dates. The first Veterans Day under the new law was celebrated Oct. 25, 1971.

Realization that this particular day held a special historic and patriotic significance to many American citizens, President Ford signed Public Law 94-97 which returned the event to Nov. 11 of each year, beginning in 1978.

This action was accepted overwhelmingly by the majority and by state legislatures and all major service organizations.

Veterans Day in Citrus County helps us all keep the flame of patriotism burning brightly in our hearts and minds. Our hearts will remind us of our love of being an American and loving America and what it stands for.

Our hearts and minds will also take pause to remember and honor those past and present who willingly have served and are serving the United States.

This special day has become a symbol to honor those who sacrifice so much.

God bless America.

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