Friday, June 19, 2009

Where Veterans Day Began: Emporia, Kansas

Emporia, Kansas' population hovers around 30,000 - a fairly large place when compared with many Kansas towns, though not exactly huge. But a very big idea came out of Emporia during the 1950s.

After World War I ended, November 11, 1919 was set aside as 'Armistice Day' - a time to remember the sacrifices of American soldiers who had fought in the great war, and give thanks for the peace that had been achieved. But peace was short-lived when World War II began, in 1927.

In 1953, residents of Emporia re-christened November 11 as 'Veterans Day' in gratitude to all veterans from the city. Soon afterwards, a Kansas congressman suggested that Armistice Day be renamed Veterans Day across the nation. By the next year President Eisenhower had signed a bill renaming the federal holiday Veterans Day. Finally, President Nixon declared the second Monday in November a federal holiday called Veterans Day, in 1971.

But Emporia residents didn't stop there. On May 26, 1991 this city was the first in the United States to dedicate an All Veterans Memorial that recognized the sacrifices of all soldiers who fought in conflicts from the Civil War through the Gulf War. Today, Soden's Grove All Veterans Memorial features a World War II M-4A6 Sherman army tank, a Military Order of the Purple Heart Monument for the State of Kansas, and a Huey helicopter from the Vietnam War, as well as numerous other monuments.

In this quiet and peaceful place, soldiers are still honored and remembered daily and with reverence.

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