Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day vs Memorial Day

Yesterday, one of my facebook friends posted a question: "Can I ask a question - a serious question - its a pet peeve of mine. We have two holidays that seem somewhat similar - Memorial Day when we remember our deceased and especially our deceased military. I remember at home the parade going over the Wisconsin River bridge and stopping while a floral wreath was lowered into the river in honor of the naval war dead.

And we have Veterans Day to honor our nations Veterans. Why do we find it necessary to have our Veterans celebrations in cemeteries? Aren't we mixing apples and oranges here? Shouldn't we be having these celebrations at places like VA Hospitals, and maybe at recruiting centers or military installations?"

This made me reflect and think a little.

Memorial Day once was called "Decoration Day". Its the day graves of those lost their lives in the service of our country. Originally, it was for those that fought the Civil War. After WW1, it was expanded to honor those died in all American wars.

Memorial Day was traditionally observed on May 30th. In 1971 it was recognized as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May.

Veteran's Day used to be called Armistice Day. It is celebrated to mark the armistice between the Allied Nations and Germany. That armistice was signed on signed at 11 am on November 11, 1918. In 1938, it was made a legal holiday.

I remember that on November 11th each year, school came to a halt before 11 am. We stood at our desks at 11 am, turned facing East (I think it was) and had a moment of silence in observance of the signing of the armistice.

From 1971 until 1978 it was celebrated on the Monday close to November 11. However, because of the historic significance, it is celebrated on November 11th. That helps focus attention to the reason for the holiday: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

So, the short answer is that is that Memorial Day is for remembering those who lost their lives in battle or as a result of battle. Veteran's Day is to celebrate ALL Americans that served honorably.

I can understand the confusion. In my thinking, we should be laying wreaths and flagging cemeteries in observance of Memorial Day. On Veteran's Day we should celebrate all that have served in our armed forces.

It is appropriate to celebrate Veteran's Day with free meals to veterans, but not on Memorial Day.

Yes, it would be appropriate to celebrate at places like VA Hospitals, but it is also appropriate to celebrate the lives of veterans have have been laid to rest.

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