Seventy-six years ago, it all started in Birmingham. In 1947, the first Veterans Day parade was celebrated only in Alabama, but the idea was so good and so needed that it spread nationally.

Raymond Weeks was an Alabama native and veteran of World War II. He came up with the idea to take “Armistice Day” — which commemorated the November 11 end of fighting in World War I — and expand it to “Veterans Day” to honor all Americans who had served their country and their people. He led a national campaign for the idea of Veterans Day with General Dwight Eisenhower, President Harry Truman and Congress.

By Nov. 11, 1982, the idea had become so popular that President Ronald Reagan awarded the Presidential Citizenship Medal to Weeks, who lived in Alabama until his death at age 76 in 1985.

Ronald Reagan, Raymond Weeks Alabama News
President Reagan awarding Presidential Citizenship Medal to Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, founder of Veterans Day Parade

The meaning of Veterans Day is sometimes confused with Memorial Day in May. While Memorial Day honors those who died in the service of their county, Veterans Day honors all who served.

Many veterans look back at their years of service as the most meaningful time of their lives.

Some people live their entire lifetimes and wonder if they ever made a difference for others. Veterans don’t have that problem.

While there are Veterans Day parades in hundreds of cities across the country, there is only one official “National Veterans Day Parade.” It will be right where it started in Birmingham on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. Details here.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor.  You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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