Dakota Datebook

Never Forgotten

Thursday, November 13, 2008

 

Veterans Day is a very special day during which we celebrate our heroes who have fought, who have fallen, and who have served our country. It used to specifically honor World War I, falling specifically on the day that war ended, and celebrated elsewhere as Armistice Day, but though it still serves to remember that war, it has expanded to include other years, other men, and other wars.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

It wasn’t until the year 1926 when the US Congress “officially” recognized the end of World War I by passing a concurrent resolution on June 4, calling on the president to issue a proclamation to celebrate the day with these words:

“…The 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and … it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

But in 1920, just a year after the first proclamation, war was still close; fighting was not quite at an end, though the army was demobilized, and the Armistice was signed. It was difficult for people to remember, but it would be worse not to. And so, even when November 11th had passed, North Dakotans continued to honor their soldiers. On this date, the Bismarck Tribune issued an invitation to citizens of the city, inviting them to observe “Memorial Sunday” at the First Presbyterian Church.

Places in the church were “reserved for the American Legion, the War Mothers, the Legion auxiliary and any other war organization” which wanted places to be reserved. The Tribune said, “Special invitations have not been attempted by those in charge of the service, but they hope that all patriotic citizens will feel that the service is their service, and assist in the day’s observance by their presence if duty does not call them elsewhere.”

This “tribute to the American soldiers who lie in Flanders fields” was “beautiful,” and “musical programs harmonized admirably with the sentiment of the occasion.” It was well-attended, with readings, songs, addresses and memories.

Today, just as then, Veterans Day has passed—but we continue to remember.

Sources:
Bismarck Daily Tribune, Saturday, Nov. 13, 1920
Bismarck Daily Tribune, Monday, Nov. 15, 1920
“History of Veterans Day.” <http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp>

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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