Americans over the age of 75 might remember when November 11 was called “Armistice Day,” commemorating the ceasefire on the Western Front of World War II.

In 1946, 38-year-old civic leader and WWII Navy veteran Raymond Weeks worked channels to get a message to Army Chief of Staff, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Because the US already had Memorial Day, he told Ike, we didn’t need another “Remembrance Day” on November 11. And given the distance world events had traveled since 1918, a federal holiday commemorating the WWI Armistice seemed beside the point. Why not, he argued, treat November 11 as a “National Veterans Day”?

Many might be surprised that for much of our early history, there was no Veterans Day, no Memorial Day, and few special recognition given to military veterans. This was by design as fears of a large standing army toppling the fragile republic outweighed national security concerns.

We might also ask, looking to the future, whether Veterans Day in its current form is sustainable. By 2050, as Vietnam Veterans pass away, we’ll be left with our smallest veterans population since the 19th century. What can Veterans Day mean in such a context? Todd has a few ideas.