Today, the last U.S. veteran of World War I will be laid to rest in Arlington cemetery. With him dies the last living link to the significance of the date of Veteran’s Day, or as it was called during Frank Buckles’ generation, Armistice Day.
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
With the passing of Frank Buckles, I believe now is the time to consider honoring all Veterans with a day that all Americans can, and should, use to both consider their sacrifice and make use of the freedoms and responsibilities that our veterans’ sacrifice afforded them. I believe that Veterans’ Day should be moved to Election Day (or, conversely, Election Day could be moved to Veteran’s Day).
It would be fitting to honor our Veterans by using the day we remember them to cast our ballots and exercise our freedom to elect our leaders. It would be appropriate to elect our leaders on a day that reminds those elected of the fights that were waged, across the world, to give them that opportunity. I also think moving Election Day and Veterans’ Day to the same day would boost turnout, and not just because it would remind voters of their duty.
Veterans’ Day is a holiday. That means a day off. If it were concurrent with Election Day, perhaps even more companies would offer it as a holiday to their employees. That would increase turnout, it would put the essential duty of a citizen, voting, on par with honoring Christopher Columbus (to pick an example). It would make Election Day the fall parallel to the 4th of July and Memorial Day as the honored days of our electoral calendar. After all, Memorial Day and Independence Day already pair our system of government with the men and women who have defended it, as it should be.
Today we bury our last WWI Veteran, and with it the last link to November 11th being the right date to honor our Veterans. I propose honoring them for generations to come by indelibly linking them with our right, and duty, to vote.