“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself in acts of bravery and heroism.”
- Alexander Hamilton
Happy Veterans Day! As a military spouse, military service is near and dear to my heart. My husband has been in the Navy for almost seven years and I’m thankful for his service. I’m filled with gratitude for all who have stepped forward and sacrificed their own ambitions in support of our wonderful nation, and I’m brought to tears for those who sacrificed much more than ambitions so that we can remain free. So to all who have served, are serving, and their loved ones at home who serve with them: thank you!
I wanted today’s blog to focus on this wonderful holiday and the differences between it and its cousin – Memorial Day. Both holidays are a chance to honor our nation’s finest, but what exactly distinguishes Veterans Day from Memorial Day (besides the fact that one is in May and the other in November)? Glad you asked! Let’s jump in!
Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States that is observed annually on November the 11th. Veterans Day evolved from Armistice Day, which was established by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919 as an annual remembrance of the service of the allied service members who brought about the end of World War I. The Allied powers and Germany signed the Armistice of Compiègne on November 11, 1918 in Compiègne, France, bringing an end to the fighting on the Western Front in World War I. In 1945, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Alabama, proposed the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not only those who fought in World War I. His idea gained popularity, and in 1954, Congress passed a bill that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, thereby honoring all American service members. An interesting fact: the holiday is commonly misspelled as “Veteran’s Day” vice Veterans Day. Why is one later correct than the former? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that “Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an ‘s’ at the end of ‘veterans’ because it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”
The most important difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our nation, while Veterans Day is a day to honor all who have served our nation. Avoid thanking a veteran for their service on Memorial Day; the veteran is spending the day honoring the fallen alongside of you, and they’ll likely tell you that. The holiday has its origins in the American Civil War, where the ancient tradition of decorating soldiers’ graves blended with the American custom of doing so in late spring as the weather changed. In 1868, Union General John A. Logan established Decoration Day as a day to decorate the graves of Union soldiers with flowers. A host of Confederate days of remembrance sprung up shortly after. As part of the reconstruction efforts after the end of the war, the United States purposefully merged the different days of remembrance into one single day of remembrance to honor all of the nation’s war dead on May 30th of each year. The tradition lived on for nearly one-hundred years until the United States officially changed the various names for the days of remembrance to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1971, Congress shifted the observance of Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday in May of each year. Memorial Day has been observed on that day ever since.
I hope that you are filled with and gratitude on this Veterans Day. If you’re a veteran or you’re the loved one of a service member that is waging the war back home while they’re away, you have my deepest admiration, respect, and thanks. Thank you for your service.