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Difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day«Back to View Articles | Back to All Articles
11/11/2008 - David Mower

Many people confuse the purposes of Veterans Day and Memorial Day seeing them as duplicate events.   They actually serve two different purposes, to put it bluntly ...

Veterans Day

 ...the living


... the dead

Memorial Day

Veterans Day is anchored in an event - the end of the War to End All Wars - WW I.  It more has evolved from a rememberance of the end of the Great War to the rememberance of all wars and engagements America has fought over the generation with recognition to the sacrifice and valor of the participants.  The day is the opportunity to give thanks and honor to living veterans who served honorably in the military in peacetime as well as those who served in wartime.  It is a day for celebration, parades, speeches and rememberances.

The holiday now celebrates the approximate 26,403,703 (2000 census) U.S. veterans with parades and ceremonies among other events.  Veterans Day is traditionally celebrated with parades which include current and past service members.  It is a day of celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. 

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 AM. 

Veterans Day is normally identified with Town Squares, veteran parades, patrotic politcal speechs, and celebrations.

Memorial Day, (also known as Decoration Day) is anchored in the ultimate sacrifice of the soldiers and sailors participating in the Civil War (or War Between the States) .   Memorial Day as evolved into a focus on all participants in all conflicts who have given the ultimate sacrifice - the men and women - who died while in the service of their country - especially those who died from injuries sustained from actual combat and hostile action.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared it should be May 30. It is believed the date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C..

The ceremonies centered around the mourning- draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day is normally identified with military cemetaries, memorial ceremonies, and thanks giving for those willing to put duty, honor, country  over self interest.

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