By Hannah Curran, Editor
BIRMINGHAM — Alabama started America’s national movement to create Veterans Day to commemorate veterans of all wars.
Dr. David Dyson spreads education about how America’s Veterans Day started in Alabama. Dyson was appointed Historian and Author for National Veterans Day in Birmingham by Trussville native Mark Ryan, who serves as volunteer president for the organization, which started our nation’s Veterans Day in 1947. Dyson also serves as founder of Life Leaders Institute with major programs Compassion Ranch and Patriotism in Action. Alabamians saw the need after WWII to honor veterans of all wars, proposed the concept to Gen. Eisenhower in 1946, hosted the first National Veterans Day in 1947, and supported as President Eisenhower made Veterans Day a national holiday in 1954.
The historian for National Veterans Day in Birmingham wants to educate citizens on the significance behind Veterans Day in Alabama through Veterans Day Founding Education.
We are sponsoring a campaign to help our citizens know the who-where-when of this national holiday born in our state. When veterans came to them 10 years ago citing a problem that while many people in the Birmingham Area have seen or heard of the parade and seen news stories, they estimated only 2 percent of Alabamians knew this history, less than 1 percent nationally.
If veteran, educational, patriotic, civic, government, and media organizations display the poster summarizing the history and character traits then Alabamians can teach this history to citizens and brand Alabama better for leading this national movement as well as the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s a potentially powerful message. Veterans gave us Freedom of Liberty. With Freedom of Liberty and Freedom of Rights, we have Freedom to Flourish. The character traits mandated to teach since 1995 include patriotism, courage, perseverance, and 22 more. This history helps teach those traits that can help students learn to develop and flourish better, Dyson said.
This is the 75th anniversary year (1947-2022) since Alabama started the commemoration of veterans of all wars in America and the 10th anniversary year since the campaign resulted in the US Senate passing a resolution restoring official national recognition for the City of Birmingham, State of Alabama, and “driving force” Raymond Weeks.
Over 100 organizations have received posters to display in support of teaching and promoting Alabama for the history and character traits associated with Alabama leading the national movement for America’s Veterans Day. Examples include the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs putting a poster in every veteran service office across the state. The American Legion has pledged to display posters in every post in Alabama. A growing number of schools are increasing their educational efforts to display posters and teach the history and character traits. Schools are a key to helping all citizens know the history and character traits.
Local organizations are among those who display the poster.
- City of Clay
- City of Argo
- Trussville Public Library
- American Legion Department of Alabama
- Leeds Post 107
- Leeds Post 400
- Ms. Senior Alabama & Pageant
- Ms. Senior Alabama Helena
- Ms. Senior Alabama Kimberly
- Ms. Senior Alabama Trussville
- Alabama Veterans Home Pell City
Local leaders helping to promote the campaign and distribute posters include Col. Bob (USA Retired) and Nancy Barefield of Clay, who serves as chair of Patriotism in Action. Mrs. Temple Wells, Ms. Senior Alabama from Trussville, chose the Veterans Day Founding Education and Compassion Ranch programs as her platform of service.
Related Story: The history behind Veterans Day
“We have made great progress, though for this state branding to be sustainable schools and patriotic organizations can take action in a simple inexpensive way,” Dyson said. “Display a poster that summarizes the history and character traits and read our 7-point statement annually at Veterans Day events. Inspired teachers can also spend a few minutes teaching the 5 character traits and 5 more recommended values advanced by the history during November 1-10.”
Dyson said there are seven key facts to share with students and other citizens to help them know the who-when-where of establishing Veterans Day. We ask the many schools and organizations who host a Veterans Day commemoration to say or publish this statement:
- America’s first Veterans Day was organized in Alabama in 1947 by Raymond Weeks, WWII veteran & former Alabama student.
- Alabama led the national movement after gaining support in 1946 from General Eisenhower, who as president established the federal holiday in 1954.
- The National Veteran Award was established in Birmingham in 1954, the same year Veterans Day became a federal holiday.
- President Reagan honored Mr. Weeks with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1982 on national television at the White House.
- The United States Senate passed a resolution in 2012 restoring the historical roots of starting Veterans Day in Alabama.
- The book Patriotism in Action features the history of Veterans Day launched in Alabama and character traits demonstrated by the patriotic actions to inspire students.
- The web page www.VeteransDayFoundingEducation.us provides free resources useful for teachers, students, and other patriots so you can take action to serve students and states advancing this historical distinction.
Dyson explained a problem in 2012 ended up helping Alabama to strengthen its position as a national leader for Veterans Day.
“I anticipated investing a month to get the job done, mainly a lesson plan for schools, proclamation from the Governor, and help for civic clubs to tell the story to leaders already out of school,” Dyson said. “We made progress in the Department of Education with a promised lesson plan using our research before Veterans Day. Then, we had a meeting with people in the Governor’s Office, Veteran Affairs, and Tourism, and they all agreed to help. Our next step was a proclamation from the Governor. Then, we learned, some bad news that made the job tougher.”
Thanks to research by Bob Horton of Veterans Affairs, we learned the US Congress had passed a resolution ten years earlier that said Veterans Day started in another state in 1953 and 1954 (seven years after Alabama was already doing Veterans Day). So we knew the truth, but this congressional action would make public officials hesitant to support a different position. Officially, Birmingham and Raymond Weeks had lost their legacy. Dyson said now they had to provide their case.
Dyson explained that Patriotism in Action, with cooperation from National Veterans Day in Birmingham and many more patriots, appealed to the United States Congress to prove Alabama led the national movement for Veterans Day.
“The book and poster told our story. We also felt the speech by Reagan showing the White House had already vetoed this,” Dyson said. “President Reagan called Mr. Weeks the ‘driving force.’ The briefing for the President by Elizabeth Dole referred to Weeks as the ‘Father of Veterans Day.’ We urged cooperation instead of a fight with the other state. Even though Alabama started Veterans Day you cannot have a national movement without states like Kansas spreading the concepts and programs.”
Eleven months after the program started, about the time of Veterans Day, the US Senate passed a resolution confirming Alabama had the longest-running celebration of Veterans Day in the United States. The resolution cited the first parade in Birmingham and Weeks for his leadership. The official lost legacy has been restored.
“Now, we must implement in a sustainable way through education and branding,” Dyson said. “If every school taught this history and our patriotic organizations displayed the poster and cited the historical points annually, we could add a positive brand for our state and sustain for future generations.”