The Origin of Veterans Day
In 1953 the Korean War had ended, with memories of World War II still fresh. In Emporia, Kansas, a young man named Al King, who had been too young to participate in World War II (although he tried to join the Navy toward the end of the war, at age 15), was dissatisfied with the holiday called “Armistice Day” on November 11. Why commemorate the service of just the veterans of World War I? Why not honor the service of all veterans?
King became obsessed with the idea of changing Armistice Day into what we now know as Veterans Day. He was a shoe store owner and well known around town. Soon the Emporia Chamber of Commerce became involved. It surveyed local merchants and found that 90 percent of them, plus the Board of Education, were willing to observe a holiday for all veterans on November 11.[i]
A bill was introduced into Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954. Veterans Day was observed across the country that November. So the rest of the country was only a year behind Emporia.
The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains its involvement:
“We traded off [organizing the event] with the Legion for a long time,” said Harold Burenheide, quartermaster of VFW Post 1980 in Emporia. “It’s just been our two organizations. But now, the Chamber gets involved, and it’s a week-long celebration.”[ii]