Veterans Day And Memorial Day: Do You Know The Difference?

It might seem obvious that Veterans Day is not the same as Memorial Day, but how many people – even some veterans themselves – really know the difference between these two major U.S. holidays? At first glance, they seem pretty similar after all, considering both honor the military and those who have served, but in reality, the two holidays hold very different meanings.

“Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country,” wrote The Washington Post. “While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military.”

Why is this important? For veterans – those who are still living and even for the families of those who have passed away – Veterans Day is important because it is a special day set aside to honor all military veterans and it is a wonderful way for people around the country to show support for soldiers who have survived horrible conflicts, as well as those who are getting ready for deployment. This can be hugely important for morale – especially for veterans who are suffering from PTSD as a result of combat – to know that for just one day, they are being recognized for their struggles.

Although veterans are also honored on Memorial Day and many military men and women – including veterans – are often involved in the parades and ceremonies, this U.S. holiday is especially set aside for remembering all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. This makes Memorial Day very important emotionally for families, as well as for the close friends and fellow service men and women of the fallen.

Originally dubbed “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day was originally established just three years after the end of the civil war by a group of Union veterans known as the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The idea was to give U.S. citizens a day to decorate the graves of war veterans and to remember those who have fallen. According to Fox News, it is believed that May 30 was selected because by this day flowers are in bloom throughout the United States, which made the veterans’ grave decorations even more beautiful for the memorial services. In 1971 the passage of the National Holiday Act changed the name and made Memorial Day an official U.S. holiday.

By contrast, Veterans Day is celebrated each year on November 11 and began as Armistice Day in celebration of the end of World War I, which officially happened on November 11, 1918, according to In 1954, following the end of World War II and the Korean War, Congress changed it to Veterans Day in June of 1954 and November 11 officially became a national holiday set aside to honor American veterans of all wars.

“Veterans Day is largely intended to thank the LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty,” explained The Washington Post.

Last but not least, it’s probably a good idea to clarify what Labor Day is all about too, because next to Veterans Day and Memorial Day, it is one of the most misunderstood U.S. national holidays. Held the first Monday in September each year, Labor Day has nothing to do with veterans, but instead is a special day to honor the contributions of everyday American civilian workers – not members of the military. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it is “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

[Photo by Stefan Zakin/Getty Images]