Is Veterans Day the same as Memorial Day? What is the deal with the poppies? And why do some schools take the day off and others expect their students to show up? Everything you ever wanted to know about Veterans Day – and more!
Is it Veterans Day or Veteran’s Day?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs puts an end to the confusion. The only correct spelling is indeed Veterans Day. Explaining that the possessive apostrophe would erroneously declare the day as belonging to veterans, the government agency instead points out that “it is a day for honoring all veterans.”
Why is November 11 an Important Date?
On November 11, 1918, the fighting between Germany and the allied nations ended in a temporary armistice. World War I officially ended after all parties signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Nevertheless, the Center of Military History notes that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson chose November 11 as the day for an official Armistice Day celebration. By 1921, Congress had declared the day a federal holiday. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name of the day from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
What Do We Celebrate on Veterans Day?
Veterans Day and Memorial Day are sometimes confused. In the past, Veterans Day – when it was still Armistice Day – was declared as a day when “the reflections of armistice day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.”
Yet when the name and meaning of the date changed, Memorial Day became the occasion to remember those who died while serving. Many express their gratitude to the fallen by wearing poppies in their lapels. In contrast, Veterans Day became an opportunity to express gratitude to all who honorably served (or still serve) in the military.
Why Do Some Schools Close and Others Do Not?
It is the job of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to declare which holidays are to be observed by federal employees. The authority of the OPM does not extend to non-federal entities such as schools and city government offices. As a result, it is up to the individual school districts to decide how they want to observe the history and meaning of Veterans Day. Some choose to have assemblies honoring the country’s veterans; others give the students and teachers a day off.
Is There a National Observance?
Indeed, there is. The Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs announces that the annual Veterans Day National Ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. at Arlington National Cemetery. Of course, there are also plenty of events at the state level. The National Cemetery Administration maintains a list of noted state observances.
For citywide observances, check with your local city hall or representative. Observances are usually held at parks, around libraries or near government buildings.