Why 'Veterans Day' Doesn't Use an Apostrophe

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veterans day
Mr. Albert J. Madden, Sgt. 1st Class, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Veteran of World War II, play TAPS on his trumpet during the somber ceremony that marked the 91st anniversary of Veterans Day in 2010. (U.S. Air Force/Sandra Niedzwiecki)

If Veterans Day is for veterans, why isn’t it “Veteran’s Day” with an apostrophe?

Before 1947, what we call Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, when countries around the world took a moment to acknowledge the end of World War I, the "War to End All Wars."

No one knew back then that it wasn't an end to all wars, just a temporary reprieve from the bloody series of trenches that came to define it.

On Nov. 11, 1921, the United States, Britain and France all held ceremonies to bury an unknown soldier in the most hallowed cemeteries in their respective countries. They would call it Armistice Day, and come back to relive that solemn moment year after year.

The day didn't belong to the men who fought and died in the Great War; it was a day to honor them. That tradition continues with Veterans Day, which explains why there is no possessive apostrophe in the name.

In 1926, Congress formally named Nov. 11 as Armistice Day to honor World War I veterans. In 1938, Congress declared it a national holiday. But over the next few years, the entire world would change, and the "Great War" would be forever overshadowed by World War II.

The first celebration to use the term "Veterans Day" came in 1947 when World War II veteran Raymond Weeks organized a movement for a National Veterans Day to honor all Americans who served in the armed forces. It was held on the same day as Armistice Day -- Nov. 11. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower made the switch from Armistice Day to Veterans Day permanent.

va eisenhower veterans day

When Weeks was creating his local Veterans Day parade in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947, however, it carried the same sentiments as Armistice Day: it didn't belong to anyone; it was a day to honor those who served.

That sentiment has endured, even though Veterans Day was moved and moved again and Armistice Day was lost to history. Veterans Day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, isn't spelled with an apostrophe before or after the "s" because it's not a day that belongs to veterans; it's a day to honor them.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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