Difference Between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Mementos of a soldier - Click for sourceMany Americans “celebrate” official holidays that honor U.S. military personnel without knowing the meaning of the days. I know, because I’ve been one of those Americans.

One thing that’s confused me is the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. They both honor past service people. So, why do most of us get two days off of work–the last Monday of May and around November 11? What are we expected to think about on each day?

The short answer is that while Veterans Day primarily honors living personnel, Memorial Day honors the military personnel who died in the line of duty.

That means publicly cheering the stranger wearing a U.S. Marines veteran badge might be more appropriate on another day. However, today is an appropriate day to ask a veteran for a story about a comrade who died in battle.

More traditionally, you might decorate the grave of a service person, say a prayer, or simply lower an American flag to half-mast until noon (if that hasn’t past where you live).

Whatever you do, may you have a thoughtful Memorial Day.

More information is available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs page on Memorial Day.