When it comes to federal holidays celebrated in the United States, people are often confused between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The confusion isn’t all that difficult to understand since they both have to do with the military, and the way the holidays are portrayed by stores hosting 'Huge Sales!' make them seem almost identical. While both holidays celebrate the military, they celebrate very different aspects of it. Understanding the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day will help you understand why you shouldn’t celebrate the holidays the same.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May each year (this year it will be celebrated on May 25), and it’s a holiday for honoring and remembering those who have served and died for their country. It’s particularly for military service personnel who died as the result of battle or died from wounds sustained from battle. Memorial Day is to celebrate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. 

Since Memorial Day honors the US military dead, it’s common for those celebrating the holiday to visit and bring flowers to memorials and cemeteries which honor those who have died in military service. One common way people volunteer for Memorial Day observances is to place an American flag on each grave at military and national cemeteries.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 each year, although it sometimes is celebrated on the following Monday if it happens to land on a Sunday. For 2015, Veterans Day is celebrated on Wednesday, November 11.

Veterans Day doesn’t honor the military dead, but honors all who are alive those who have honorably served in the military. It doesn’t matter if the person serves during war or during peaceful times. If they have been part of the military at any time, then they are celebrated on Veterans Day.

Why do you need to know the difference?

The problem is that the two holidays have, for many, become a time to thank the military. Much of this can be attributed to companies advertising where military discounts are often given to active members on Memorial Day.

 For those in the military who understand the difference, this can create some awkward situations on Memorial Day. Those who don’t understand the different meanings of the two holidays often go up to military personnel and thank them for their service on a day that’s meant to honor the military dead. To be thanked, although well-meaning, when the day is to remember those who gave their lives and not those who are still alive makes for an uncomfortable situation.



Steven LaBarre