Veterans Day and Birmingham’s Ties to Its Creation

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Mark your calendars! Veterans Day mattress sales are upon us! You probably have a reminder set in your phone already, because who passes up those big Veterans Day bed and boxspring sales?!

You can probably feel my sarcasm jumping off the screen. Veterans Day discounts are one of those things I never really thought about until I became a veteran. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve participated in those Free-Meal-on-Veterans-Day-with-Proof-of-Military-Service promotions (Mama likes to eat, y’all), but the national holiday isn’t about discounts and free meals. It’s not about a day off work or school. Gimmicks make the holiday feel inauthentic to me. It’s like they assist in a well-intended, yet unconscious evolution of a holiday born out of so much more.

Years of violent massacres, illness, chemical warfare, millions of casualties (military and civilian), and the global pressure to end it were crippling for more than twenty nations. World War I, the “War to End All Wars,” was ugly and it didn’t end all wars, despite its far-reaching involvement (it literally led to the second World War years later — yuck!).  The sentiment to lay weapons down, stop the bloodshed, and honor those who served during such a tumultuous battle are what the day was meant to celebrate. We can’t forget that.

A Century of History

The Buddy Poppy flower is symbolic of the blood shed in WWI by millions of Allied soldiers in the defense of freedom.

The “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” was the declaration or armistice of the end of World War I in 1918, according to history.com. The following year, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson observed the anniversary of the end of the war, though it wouldn’t become an official federal holiday until May 13, 1938 (thanks, Wikipedia – you’re the real MVP). Additionally, President Wilson (or Dub Squared, as I like to call him) stated, “. . . Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service . . .”

Enter Birmingham, Alabama

World War II had come and gone by the end of 1945. Raymond Weeks, of Birmingham, Alabama, having served in WWII, thought the nation should celebrate veterans of all U.S. wars, not only those who passed in WWI. The Birmingham-Southern College alum led the charge to Washington, D.C. to establish November 11th as a national holiday honoring all veterans, earning him the moniker, “The Father of Veterans Day” (per weldbham).

He went on to usher the first National Veterans Day parade in the streets of Birmingham on November 11, 1947, undeterred by the holiday not being signed into legislation until years later in 1954. Weeks, despite his last name, did not have time to wait to make the holiday official (initiate Arsenio Hall fist pump)!

Proud Citizen Thoughts

Birmingham, Alabama is home to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, National Historic Landmark Sloss Furnaces, and the only location in the world where coal, limestone, and iron ore occur naturally within a 10-mile radius, as stated in this Mental Floss article. More than that, it’s home to history-makers. Change has been sparked here throughout the years, and we should be proud of that. You can experience its chronicles and history markers while fully immersing yourself in the richness created beneath your feet and before your eyes.

This Veterans Day, I encourage you to join with your friends and family to witness the tradition of honor Raymond Weeks created 72 years ago. Skip the stores, disregard the gimmicks, discount the discounts.

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Raised outside of Orlando, Florida, redheaded Melissa is an avid sunscreen and shade enthusiast. She left Florida in 2007 to serve in the United States Air Force as a radio and television broadcaster. After basic and technical training she was stationed in Illinois, South Korea, Italy, and Alabama with two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan sprinkled in between. In 2013, she met her husband Gregg and in 2015, they were married. This gave Melissa the new title of Bonus Mom to Gregg's daughter, Isabella. That year also welcomed Melissa back into the civilian world as her eight years of service came to a close due to medical retirement. She has called Birmingham home for the past 3.5 years. Shortly after they were married, Melissa and Gregg found themselves wading through the confusing and emotional world of miscarriage and unexplained infertility. They excitedly welcomed a son in November of 2017 after two years of trying for a little miracle. Melissa dedicates her extra time to spoiling their three rescue dogs Ginger, Typsy, and Bruno. She also fosters dogs before they find their furever homes.