Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day: There’s a Huge Difference Between the Two
It's so easy to get wrapped up in the fact that this weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer especially this year when it feels like we've not had a whole lot to celebrate in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the havoc its brought to each of us.
Many of the Americans who've been working through quarantine will get a breather for a few days thanks to the holiday weekend, but this isn't just a free-for-all weekend. Monday is also Memorial Day, a very important day for our country, one deserving of our utmost respect.
According to the National WWII Museum, 80 percent of Americans say that they don't really understand the real reason behind the observation of Memorial Day. As a matter of fact, only 20 percent of people surveyed said that they know "a lot" about Memorial Day. The other 77 percent said they know "something" or "a little" about the holiday and three percent said they knew absolutely "nothing" about the meaning behind Memorial Day.
Three percent doesn't seem like a huge number, but it is. Three percent of the American population translates to 9,858,852 people who have no idea what one of the most important United States holidays is all about.
Whether you're part of the three percent who have no idea what Memorial Day is about, or part of the 77 percent who only know a little about the holiday, here's what you need to know - Memorial Day is a federal holiday. It's a day when most businesses close, and all government offices and schools shut down, pandemic or not. But more importantly, Memorial Day is the day on which we pause to honor and remember the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the United States armed forces.
Memorial Day is observed each year on the last Monday of May and falls on May 18 this year. When the holiday was first created in the 1800s, it was known as Decoration Day. The reason that it was called Decoration Day is that it was a day that soldiers would pause to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades who fought in the American Civil War with flags, flowers, etc. In 1967, the holiday was expanded to honor the memory of all Americans who died while serving in our military. And this is why we observe Memorial Day.
A lot of people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day, or just mix the two together. Here's an easy way to remember the difference:
When someone dies, often a memorial service will be held to remember them. Memorial Day is to remember the memory of someone who died while actively serving in the United States military.
Veterans Day, on the other hand, celebrates anyone who has served our country whether in time of war or in time of peace, dead or alive.
Also, it is never appropriate to wish someone a "Happy Memorial Day." Imagine someone celebrating the death of someone you love. Memorial Day is meant to be a somber day of remembrance, not a celebration.