What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

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On Wednesday, people throughout the United States will honor those who have served the country in the armed forces with Veterans Day. While it has similarities to Memorial Day, another holiday where the military is honored, it is important to note the differences between the two days.

Although each day is important, each day is dedicated to different people who have served the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day is intended to honor people in the military who died in service, especially “those who died in combat or as a result of wounds sustained in combat. While those who made the ultimate sacrifice are still honored on Veterans Day, it is a day to honor all people who served in the military, including those who are still alive.

The Veterans Affairs Department states that Veterans Day is largely dedicated to living veterans and shows that all veterans have made sacrifices and helped their country, not just those who gave their lives.

Nonprofit homes for our troops also explained the different ways people can celebrate each holiday and pay tribute to the troops, such as going to church services on Memorial Day and laying flowers in cemeteries. For Veterans Day, the non-profit organization explained that people can volunteer in facilities for veterans and directly thank the veterans for their service to show their appreciation. The website also stated that attending memorial services and decorating veterans’ graves is also appropriate on Veterans’ Day.

Since 1919, November 11 has been a day to honor veterans. President Woodrow Wilson declared it “Armistice Day” one year after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, honoring veterans who served in World War I. In 1938, Congress passed a law that would make it a national legal holiday. In 1954, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it became a day of commemoration for all veterans, not just those from the “Great War”.

In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed, slightly changing the date on which Veterans Day was celebrated. The law stipulated that Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day should all be celebrated on Monday. Thus, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday in October, but was later moved back to November 11, 1975.

Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War; although like Veterans Day, it is associated with World War I. It was first celebrated in 1866 in Waterloo, New York (as recognized by Congress in 1966), but according to the Veterans Affairs Department, national celebrations of “Decoration Day” began in 1868. After World War I, “Memorial Day” was expanded from a day of remembrance for those who died in the Civil War to a day in honor of all Americans who served in the war. It was declared a national holiday in 1971.

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