Veterans Day and Memorial Day: There Is A Difference!

Happy Thursday, everyone.  My name is Steve.  As part of the quality assurance team here, some of you have talked to me on the phone when you have had questions about our products.  Others know me for my long, rambling and occasionally nonsensical health tips and articles.  Sorry for boring you with wordiness, by the way.  What you probably don’t know is that I’m also a veteran.  Which is why I decided to make this week’s article about the differences between Veterans Day, on November 11th, and Memorial Day, coming up on the last Monday of May.  And yes, they are most definitely different.  Memorial day commemorates those who have given their lives in service to their country and is a day of remembrance.  Veterans Day is the day we honor our troops, and as a veteran, I’d like to add that it’s a great day to buy a vet a beer.  Or you could just say thanks.  We’re not that picky.

 Veteran's Day

Veterans Day got its starts much later in American history.  The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, marks the official end to World War I. However, the unofficial end of the war was in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, when an armistice, or cease-fire, began.   In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th as Armistice Day.  In his speech he said,

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

Armistice Day was observed with parades and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.  It wasn’t until 1968, when The Uniform Holiday Bill was passed that Veteran’s Day became a national holiday, along with Memorial Day, Washington’s Birthday (widely known as President’s Day) and Columbus Day.  The first Veterans Day was observed on October 25, 1971, a day chosen to spread Federal Holidays out rather than for any historical significance.  Four years later, on September 20th, 1975, President Ford signed the law that moved Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, Armistice Day.  This lent more meaning to Veterans Day and was a move that was widely supported.

Veterans Day is now always on November 11th, no matter what day of the week on which it falls. This focuses the attention on the real purpose of Veterans Day: A day to honor America's veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

 Memorial Day

In late May every year, without fail, one or more people will post messages on my Facebook page thanking me for my service, or sometimes for my “sacrifice”.  It’s always a bit confusing since, as far as I’m aware, I’m still alive.  Some of my friends, however, were not so lucky.  It is for them that Memorial Day is observed.

While most people think of Memorial Day as the official start of summer, it’s real purpose is to honor veterans who lost their lives in service to their country.  Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

Background

Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers, who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women, who died in any war or military action.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II. Decoration Day and then Memorial Day used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week, on which it fell. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed as part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. This meant that that, from 1971, Memorial Day holiday has been officially observed on the last Monday in May. However, it took a longer period for all American states to recognize the new date.

What Do People Do?

It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half staff from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

So in a few days, when Monday rolls around and you’re dusting off the grill in preparation for the three-day weekend, take a moment to reflect upon all those who have given their lives for this country.