Home of America’s First Veterans Day.
Although World War I officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles, fighting ceased seven months earlier after an armistice between the allied nations and Germany commenced on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
Armistice Day was set aside to honor veterans of World War I. But after World War II required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in the nation’s history, a World War II veteran from Birmingham named Raymond Weeks had an idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans. In 1947 he led a delegation to Washington, D.C. to urge then-Army Chief of Staff General Dwight Eisenhower to create a national holiday that honored all veterans. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation establishing November 11th as Veterans Day.
President Reagan honored Weeks as the driving force for the national holiday with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 at the White House. Weeks led the first National Veterans Day Parade in 1947 in Alabama, and he continued the tradition until his passing in 1985.