Land of the Free

November 11, 2019

The following excerpts are from Katie Lange’s article “5 Facts to Know About Veterans Day”, posted at defense.gov.

THE DAY WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED ARMISTICE DAY, COMMEMORATING THE END OF THE GREAT WAR. World War I (also known as “The Great War”) officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ended about seven months before that, when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. For that reason, November 11, 1918, was largely considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and dubbed Armistice Day.

In 1926, Congress officially recognized it as the end of the war, and in 1938, it became an official holiday, primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. Then World War II and the Korean War happened. On June 1, 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress amended the commemoration again by changing “Armistice” to “Veterans” so the day would honor US veterans of all wars.

For a while, the date was changed, too, causing confusion. 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 over a long weekend, which would stimulate the economy. FOR A BRIEF TIME, VETERANS DAY WAS THE FOURTH MONDAY IN OCTOBER. On October 25, 1971, the first Veterans Day under the new bill was observed, though many states chose to recognize the day in November. Within a few years, it became apparent that most Americans wanted to observe Veterans Day on November 11, a day of historic significance. So on September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which returned Veterans Day to its original date starting in 1978.

VETERANS DAY IS NOT THE SAME AS MEMORIAL DAY. 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 our country in war or peace – dead or alive – although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.

VETERANS DAY DOES NOT HAVE AN APOSTROPHE. Many people think it’s “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day” but they are incorrect. The holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or a multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans, so no apostrophe is needed.

OTHER COUNTRIES ALSO COMMEMORATE THE DAY. World War I was a multinational effort, so it’s reasonable that our allies wanted to honor their veterans as well. The name of the day and the types of commemorations differ, however. For example, Canada and Australia call November 11th “Remembrance Day.” Canada’s observance is similar to our own, except many citizens wear red poppy flowers to honor their war dead. In Australia, the day is more like our Memorial Day. Great Britain calls it “Remembrance Sunday”, and observes it on the second Sunday in November with parades, services and two minutes of silence throughout the country at 11:00 am to honor those who lost their lives in war. “Throughout the course of American history, courageous men and women have taken up arms to secure, defend, and maintain these core principles upon which our Nation’s freedoms depend.” George W. Bush

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