You're right, of course, the easiest way is to just create a nice wide field for the date, which you can easily define as a date type, and you're done.
But the more sophisticated way would be to put a floating trap to work for you. And you're correct once again, in that you cannot paint the entire date as one field.
Not a problem. We'll just put a calculated field together.
In your template define the first field as MonthDay (character) up to, but not including, the comma. Now the Year field is a character field as well, from the comma to the last digit.
Now in your table create a date type calculated field with the expression:
This will give you 1/14/2008 instead of January 14, 2008.
If you really want the long text instead of a true date, just make a character field with:
While they both can get you the same end result, the big benefit to the floating trap approach versus the alternate is that'll never have to worry about needing to "verify" your report for longer strings than you defined in the append template.