Home > history, holidays, military > This Weekend, Remember: Memorial Day Is NOT Veterans Day

This Weekend, Remember: Memorial Day Is NOT Veterans Day

Sunday, May 28, 2017, 20:33 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Memorial-Day

It happens every year. Someone, on TV or radio or just in conversation, calls on Americans to thank soldiers and veterans for their service during Memorial Day weekend. Some people will correct that error, or so they believe, saying that Memorial Day is a day to remember all deceased service members. I am of the opinion that every day is an appropriate day to acknowledge soldiers and veterans, dead or alive. And we have a holiday for specifically that recognition. It just isn’t in May.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, here is the history of Memorial Day:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. […]

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

While Memorial Day is a uniquely American holiday, other nations observe a similar remembrance day. In fact, that’s what it’s called: Remembrance Day. Originally called Armistice Day, it takes place on November 11, the date the armistice ending hostilities in World War I went into effect. Remembrance Day is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other nations that were part of the British empire during World War I. The United States originally observed Armistice Day as well but later changed it. Again, according to the VA:

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

And how you know that Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor not veterans in general, but those members of our armed forces who died in war. The next time someone gets it wrong, you can set them right.

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Categories: history, holidays, military
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