PIERRE, S.D. -- Next week, America will observe its 56th Veterans Day. It hasn't always been so. In 1938, Congress declared Nov. 11 -- designated Armistice Day -- a federal holiday to commemorate the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when World War I ended. In 1954, at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars. Then politics intervened.
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson pressed his cronies in Congress to pass the so-called "Uniform Monday Holiday Bill" -- a measure giving federal workers three-day weekends by "moving" Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day to the nearest Mondays on the calendar. Congress complied, and U.S. Marines -- renowned for boisterously celebrating the Nov. 10, 1775, founding of the Marine Corps -- were devastated. For a decade, Marine "Birthday Balls" were staid, quiet affairs that ended early in the evening with minimal consumption of adult beverages.
Then, in 1978, thanks to the ministrations of President Gerald Ford, Congress restored observance of Veterans Day to its original date, Nov. 11. Since then, Marines have toasted their historic anniversary assured of a federal holiday the next morning. And this year, our commander in chief will "celebrate" both the Marine Corps' birthday and Veterans Day while he's making history on the most expensive overseas trip ever taken by an American head of state. The rest of us will be urged to mark the holiday by purchasing a car or a mattress to help our sputtering economy.
There's little doubt that Americans understand the economic mess we're in. We can see the foreclosure signs and the empty storefronts, and most of us know someone who has lost a job. These are tough times -- and it was reflected in this week's midterm elections. Public opinion surveys show that more than 61 percent of our fellow citizens believe the country has been heading in the wrong direction. Overwhelmingly, we cast votes to elect legislators, mayors, county supervisors and governors who represent traditional American values, who will stop the rampant expansion of government spending, intrusion and taxation in our lives and who offer hope for a better future.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.