Veterans Day 2019

Stephen DeAngelis

November 11, 2019

One of the things I find most exciting in life is learning something new — even if it’s a small thing. In preparing to write this article, I learned something about attributive nouns. The staff at Dictionary.com writes, “What do apostrophes have to do with this federal holiday? Well, there’s a confusing apostrophe in Veterans’ Day — or is there? Veterans Day is often incorrectly written as ‘Veteran’s Day’ or ‘Veterans’ Day.’ But, in fact, it’s apostrophe free. ‘Veteran’s Day’ would definitely be incorrect because it means a day for only one veteran. While ‘Veterans’ Day’ does encompass multiple veterans, that spelling is incorrect according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the name of the holiday, the word veterans acts as an attributive noun, which means that it behaves like an adjective even though it is a noun.”[1] Katie Lange, writing for the U.S. Department of Defense, adds, “The holiday is not a day that ‘belongs’ to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans — so no apostrophe needed.”[2]

Unlike many federal holidays, the official date for Veterans Day is a fixed date rather than a designated Monday. Staff members at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs explains the reason for the fixed date of November 11th. They write, “World War I — known at the time as ‘The Great War’ — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.’

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: ‘To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.’ … An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday — a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’ Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word ‘Armistice’ and inserting in its place the word ‘Veterans.’ With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.”

For a few confusing years, Veterans Day was designated to be celebrated on an assigned Monday. The decision was both confusing and unpopular. Lange explains, “For a while, Veterans Day’s date was changed and it confused everybody. Congress signed the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968 to ensure that a few federal holidays — Veterans Day included — would be celebrated on a Monday. Officials hoped it would spur travel and other family activities over a long weekend, which would stimulate the economy. For some inexplicable reason, the bill set Veterans Day commemorations for the fourth Monday of every October. On Oct. 25, 1971, the first Veterans Day under this new bill was held. We’re not sure why it took three years to implement, but not surprisingly, there was a lot of confusion about the change, and many states were unhappy, choosing to continue to recognize the day as they previously had — in November. Within a few years, it became pretty apparent that most U.S. citizens wanted to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, since it was a matter of historic and patriotic significance. So on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed another law (Public Law 94-97), which returned the annual observance to its original date starting in 1978.” The confusion doesn’t end there.

Because President Wilson marked Armistice Day as a time for reflecting “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died” during the First World War, the holiday has often been confused with Memorial Day, which is specifically set aside to honor America’s fallen heroes. As Lange explains, “A lot of Americans get this confused, and we’ll be honest — it can be a little annoying to all of the living veterans out there. Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle. Veterans Day honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace — dead or alive — although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.” Hopefully, all confusion about Veterans Day is now cleared up!

The sad fact remains, men and woman continue to fight and die around the world for our freedoms. They deserve our honor and respect for their dedication and sacrifices, along with their families. Please join us at Enterra Solutions® in honoring them — and all veterans — on this Veterans Day.

Footnotes
[1] Staff, “Is Veterans Day A Big Grammar Mistake?” Dictionary.com.
[2] Katie Lange, “5 Facts to Know About Veterans Day,” U.S. Department of Defense, 5 November 2018.