Veterans Day, observed annually on Nov. 11, is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. armed forces. It is not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service. Veterans Day honors all military veterans, including those still with us.
Veterans Day, originally celebrated as Armistice Day, was first marked on Nov. 11, 1919, by President Woodrow Wilson, a year after World War I.
The purpose of Armistice Day was to honor the fallen soldiers of the “The Great War” for their sacrifice and bravery.
Seven years later, in 1926, Congress adopted a resolution requesting President Calvin Coolidge to issue annual proclamations on Nov. 11, making Armistice Day a legal holiday.
In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans rather than just the ones who died in World War I.
He led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who was all for the idea. Weeks then conducted the first Veterans Day celebration in 1945 in Alabama, and every year until his death in 1985. In 1982, he was honored by President Ronald Reagan with the Presidential Citizenship Medal.
Weeks was also named the “Father of Veterans Day” by Elizabeth Dole.
Ed Rees, a U.S. Representative from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday to Congress.
Eisenhower, who was now president and also from Kansas, signed a bill into law on May 26, 1954, eight-and-a-half years after Weeks held the first Veteran’s Day.
A few weeks later, on June 1, Congress amended the bill, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans.”
The National Veterans Award was also created in 1954, first received by Rees for his support in making Veterans Day a federal holiday.
Though the holiday is currently and was originally celebrated on Nov. 11, the day was moved to the fourth Monday of October in 1971 due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
However, only seven years later, in 1978, it was moved back to Nov. 11.
On Veterans Day, I’d like to honor Harrom Kaili, a friend, a veteran and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kapa‘a Ward.
Harrom was concerned for some members of his ward. Stricken with a stroke a few years ago, Harrom became disabled and is physically hindered. Despite his disabilities, as a “luna,” leader, Kaili pioneered his brothers, Herman Paleka, Richard Ka‘a‘a, Richard Kaui and Alroy Enos, and together they have been caring for other members’ yards.
Harrom was awarded the Silver Star (third-highest military award) and the Purple Heart.
He was with the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Vietnam and he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, and the 25th Infantry Wolfhounds. He joined the Hawai‘i National Guard in 1965. He resides in Anahola. He lives with his children and grandchildren. His wife passed away in Washington state.
While our military are often thought of in a war context, most veterans will tell you that they risked their lives to defend our fundamental freedoms and that they value peace much more highly than war. Very few who have seen the real horror of war are anxious to rush into it, and Veterans Day encourages all of us to reflect on the value of harmony in our daily interactions and lives.
Gerald Pa‘aluhi Gonsalves is a resident of Anahola.