Grammar

Forget You Ever Saw an Apostrophe in Veterans Day

At the time, World War I was called “The Great War.” Back then, it was assumed — and certainly hoped that there would never be a sequel. So the end of this great war was definitely something to celebrate. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs explains that the war came to an official end on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

But the actual fighting had ended months before that, on November 11, 1918, when an armistice, which means a “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). So in November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 of that year as the first commemoration of Armistice Day to mark that historic agreement.

You and I both know that nothing happens quickly in Washington, so that was not the end of the story by a long shot.

While slightly more than half of the states had already declared the date to be a legal state holiday, it was in May of 1938 when Congress approved an act to make November 11th a legal holiday. It was still known as Armistice Day, and meant to honor the veterans of World War I.

Then came World War II, which required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history. Then came the Korean war.

And Congress decided, in 1954, to make an adjustment on the Act of 1938, replacing the word Armistice with Veterans.

Did you catch that? Veterans. No apostrophe. Neither before or after the s.

There was only one other little glitch in the history of the holiday’s annual celebration: in 1968, Congress, clearly with too little to do with itself, decided to pass a law that moved four national holidays to the Mondays of the appropriate weeks, hoping the three-day weekend would “encourage travel,

While that might be fine for the other three, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Columbus Day; Veterans Day was different: it was commemorating an actual event on an actual, then-world-changing day. So, after complaints, President Gerald Ford signed a new law in 1975 that returned Veterans Day to November 11th, effective in 1978, regardless of what day of the week that is.

Even this latest tinkering did not add an apostrophe.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is quite adamant about the apostrophe, even adding an explanation about it to its official “Frequently Asked Questions” page:

Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an s at the end of veterans because it is not a day that “belongs” to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.

People make this simple error all the time. Don’t be one of them. Be sure you’re honoring all veterans by keeping the apostrophe out.

And if you’re a veteran, thank you for your service.

2 Comments

  1. This problem would be easily solved by reverting to Armistice Day.
    Then we’d have the problem of no one spelling it right. Or knowing what it means. And I do not jest about the last part. …sigh

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.