Veterans Day is one confusing holiday

Veterans Day 2013 at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.


By LYNN WALKER | Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas (MCT) | Published: November 8, 2014

Veterans Day has to be the most confusing holiday on the calendar.

And, yes, it is a holiday — unlike some of those quasi-holiday observances we sometimes confuse with the real deal, such as Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween. Veterans Day is a federal holiday. However, it is not a holiday that everybody takes. More on that later.

Now, what is the correct way to write this holiday? Is it

A. Veteran’s Day
B. Veterans’ Day
C. Veterans Day

The correct answer is C. Veterans Day. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs explains that if the word were to have an apostrophe it would imply the day belongs to a single veteran (Veteran’s) or all veterans (Veterans’). But the holiday is not possessed by anybody. It is a holiday to honor veterans — therefore it is plural (Veterans).

Which brings up another point of frequent confusion. Veterans Day and Memorial Day are not the same holiday and have entirely different purposes. Veterans Day is intended to honor all who have served in the military. Memorial Day honors those who gave their lives in service to their country. The confusion is probably understandable given that veterans and veterans’ groups are usually quite involved in Memorial Day activities.

The next question is — when is Veterans Day?

That this can be confusing is understandable — and the U.S. government can take the lion’s share of the blame.

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day when Congress declared it a holiday in 1938. It had actually begun as a less official observance in the Woodrow Wilson administration to honor the veterans of World War I. It was observed on Nov. 11, which had been the day in 1918 when hostilities ceased on the Western Front in Europe. It was not, as many believe, the end of the war, which continued in the east. Of course, nobody referred to World War I back in those days because you couldn’t have a “first” world war until you had a second one a couple of decades later.

In other western countries, the holiday is often referred to as Remembrance Day.

While Armistice Day was originally intended to honor World War I veterans, the mood in Congress after World War II and Korea was to make it inclusive of all veterans. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

Now here’s where Washington really muddied the waters (imagine that!). In 1971, Congress moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October to give workers an extended weekend and retailers an excuse for a three-day sale. The public raised a hue and cry — especially veterans’ groups — so President Ford wisely moved it back to Nov. 11 in 1975.

Though a recognized federal holiday, Veterans Day is not universally observed like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Federal offices and banks will be closed and don’t look for mail delivery. Beyond that, it’s up to local authorities. For example, Wichita County offices will be closed Tuesday, but Wichita Falls city offices will be open (no change in the trash schedule). Public schools in Wichita Falls will have class, Notre Dame will not.

Also, many veterans’ groups prefer to hold their observances on the weekend closest to Veterans Day for the convenience of participants and watchers.

Bottom line on all this?

Veterans Day (with no apostrophe) is always on Nov. 11.

©2014 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)
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Veterans Day 2013 at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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