Memorial Day vs Veterans Day — while they may seem similar, there are key distinctions between these two military-centric federal holidays. But, what exactly is Memorial Day? And how does it differ from Veterans Day?
Memorial Day vs Veterans Day: Understanding the Differences
Every year, Americans celebrate two federal holidays that honor those who served in the United States armed forces. To this day, though, many people still confuse these holidays with one another. Memorial Day and Veterans Day share some similarities, but they are not one and the same. What is the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day? Let’s break them down below.
What Is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day honors military personnel who died while in the service of the United States armed forces. This federal holiday takes place every year, on the last Monday of May.
Originally named Declaration Day, Memorial Day first started as a way to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the American Civil War. The day eventually evolved into a day of general commemoration of fallen soldiers in all wars, being declared a federal holiday in 1971. Interestingly, the country initially celebrated Memorial Day every 30th of May before changing its date to the current last Monday of May.
What Is Veterans Day?
Veterans Day honors all those who have served in the United States armed forces. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day celebrates all veterans, not just those who died in the wars. This federal holiday takes place every year, on November 11, the day World War I ended.
Originally named Armistice Day, Congress officially recognized it as a federal holiday in 1938. Then, in 1954, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day and no longer just honored those who served during World War I. Veterans Day now covers all men and women who served in the United States armed forces. Many countries in Europe also place significance on November 11, though, in those countries, the day retains its original name of Armistice Day.
Veterans Day vs Memorial Day: How to Celebrate
Apart from who these holidays honor, there are also key differences when it comes to the manner of commemoration. Here are the distinctions between how to celebrate Memorial vs Veterans Day.
How to Celebrate Memorial Day
Memorial Day is all about honoring all military personnel who died while serving in one of the branches of the United States armed forces. Therefore, as a way to commemorate this federal holiday, many Americans visit national cemeteries and monuments in remembrance of the fallen. It is also customary to place a flag on the graves of fallen soldiers as well as attend a memorial service.
Americans are also encouraged to take a pause at 3 p.m. during the National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day. Other ways to participate in the holiday include displaying the United States flag outside your home in a manner consistent with the U.S. Flag Code, watching a National Memorial Day Concert, and participating in a run or walk that benefits relevant non-profit organizations.
How to Celebrate Veterans Day
Veterans Day is the perfect time to reach out to known veterans and thank them for their service. During this holiday, people post photos on social media with a respectful caption and tag veteran family and friends. It is also common for people to reach out to a veteran and talk to them about their time in the military. Doing so will give Americans a better understanding of their service and gain a deeper appreciation for their contributions.
There are also many cities that hold Veterans Day events such as parades. Participating in those events can be a great way to show support. Some churches also schedule special services on this day. Like Memorial Day, people can celebrate Veterans Day by displaying the U.S. flag and helping a non-profit.
Memorial Day vs Veterans Day vs Armed Forces Day
Armed Forces Day is another holiday that Americans associate with the military. And while it might also share a few similarities with Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day celebrates something different.
What Is Armed Forces Day?
Armed Forces Day honors all men and women who are currently serving in one of the branches of the United States armed forces. It takes place every year, on the third Saturday of May. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are both federal holidays. Armed Forces Day, though, is not. But, like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Americans can celebrate Armed Forces Day by displaying the U.S. flag.
Military Appreciation Month
May is brimming with holidays that commemorate the United States military. As such, it is known as Military Appreciation Month. Apart from Memorial Day, which takes place on the last month of May, and Armed Forces Day, which takes place on the third Saturday of May, here are other important dates during Military Appreciation Month:
- Loyalty Day (May 1). A day when Americans re-assert their loyalty to the United States.
- Public Services Recognition Week (First Full Week of May). This week recognizes the men and women serving as federal, state, and local government workers.
- Victory in Europe Day (May 8). This commemorates the surrender of Germany in World War II.
- Military Spouse Day (Friday Before Mother’s Day). A day to remember the sacrifice and support of the spouses of military personnel.
Memorial Day vs Veterans Day: Differences Answered!
Both Memorial Day and Veterans Day commemorate military personnel who served in the United States armed forces. But, whereas Veterans Day honors all those who have served in the military, Memorial Day specifically honors those who died while in service. Either way, both federal holidays fulfill significant purposes.
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