By Worcester P. Bong

November 11th is celebrated as a day to honor all veterans in the U.S. The holiday is known as Veterans Day here; and globally as Armistice Day. This U.S. holiday has transformed since the November 11, 1918 signing of an armistice to cease WWI fighting in Europe.

Commemorating the first anniversary of the armistice, the Prescott Journal-Miner November 6, 1919 edition reported that Governor Campbell stated “November 11, 1919 is the first anniversary of the most notable event in the world’s history, the signing of the armistice which brought to an end the greatest armed conflict within the knowledge of man and the triumph of the principle of Right over Might.” He declared that November 11th, 1919 as Armistice Day,      would be a statewide legal holiday. The November 11, 1919 edition of the Prescott Journal-Miner reported that most businesses and other Prescott enterprises observed this state holiday. President Woodrow Wilson addressed the nation with a message about Armistice Day.

Although observed annually around the world and as a statewide holiday in many states, Armistice Day went through a long process before becoming a national holiday. First, the U.S. House approved a resolution on June 3, 1926, giving the President approval to proclaim and observe Armistice Day on November 11th. However, it wasn’t until October, 1938 that President Roosevelt signed Public Law 510, making Armistice Day an official national holiday.

In 1939, as war in Europe was developing again, the November 11, 1939 Prescott Evening Courier reported that Prescott and Tucson, sites of Arizona’s two veteran facilities, both presented elaborate programs to celebrate Armistice Day. At Whipple VA Hospital in Prescott, speeches were delivered. Veterans from the Civil, Spanish-American, Indian and World Wars walked in procession to the downtown plaza. Tucson and Phoenix held parades. Several other Arizona towns held events.

Due to the nation’s involvement in WWII and the Korean War, a coalition of veteran organizations encouraged Congress to change the name to Veterans Day. On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed Public Law 83-380 to officially change the 11th day of November from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

In Prescott, Veterans Day 1954 was celebrated with commemorative services at the VA Hospital. In addition, an air fair sponsored by Prescott’s Ernst A. Love American Legion Post 6 was held on November 14th. The November 12, 1954 edition of the Prescott Evening Courier outlined the air fair’s schedule, including aerial demonstrations, displays and scenic rides aboard Frontier Airline’s DC-3 Sunliner aircraft. Newspaper, radio and television representatives from Denver and Phoenix covered the event. In the following years, Veterans Day services took place either at the VA Hospital or in Prescott.

Veterans Day was celebrated on November 11th until 1968, when Congress decided to create a uniform observance of public holidays by aligning several federal holidays around a weekend. Veterans Day was among them. Public Law 90-363, approved in June 1968, moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October, effective 1971. Between 1971 and 1977, Veterans Day was observed in October. The change was rather contentious, as many states, including Arizona, continued to observe Veterans Day on November 11th. Congress took note and, in September 1975, enacted Public Law 94-97 redesignating November 11th as Veterans Day, effective in 1978.

The first Veterans Day parade at the Prescott VA Hospital took place in 1989. As parade participation increased over the years, it was moved in 2013 to downtown Prescott. The parade’s relocation helped accommodate larger crowds and increased the number of parade entries.

Although November 11th is the official day to honor and thank all veterans, we thank our veterans every day for their service, and for preserving our freedom.


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