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Difference Between Memorial Day and Veterans Day [Full Answer!]

Fact checked by Brain Bartell

difference between memorial day and veterans day

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are both set aside for military members. However, they are not exactly the same. Today’s article will give you information on the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Hence, to make sure you do not embarrass yourself when talking about these celebrations, stick until the very end!

Memorial Day Vs. Veterans Day – How Is Memorial Day Different From Veterans Day

veterans-vs-memorial-day

What?

Memorial Day is a federal holiday. So, schools, libraries, federal and state offices will be closed. No mail deliveries occur on Memorial Day as well. Since it falls on a Monday, there is a 3-day break, named Memorial Day weekend. As a result, it is the unofficial mark for the start of summer.

Veterans Day is also a federal holiday. As such, it is a day off for the public, where schools and businesses are closed. The post office, banks, and other non-essential government offices will be closed as well.

When?

Memorial Day is on the last Monday in May, while Veterans Day is on November 11.

Why?

On Memorial Day, you honor and pay tribute to those who have given up their lives while serving in the military, whereas Veterans Day celebrates everyone in service.

How?

1. Memorial Day

Parades are held across cities and towns. Large ones take place in Washington DC, Chicago, and New York.

Many individuals visit cemeteries and wear a red poppy, which is a tradition that emerged from a World War 1 poem (You can read it here).

Some also go on weekend trips and throw get-togethers or barbecue parties, starting from the Saturday and the Sunday before Memorial Day.

These can be done by others and not just Veterans on Memorial Day.

2. Veterans Day

There are many events that are held during Veterans Day. Let’s explore them now!

Local Ceremonies and Parades

Ceremonies and parades are hosted by Veterans organizations and charities locally.

National Veterans Day Ceremony

This is the national ceremony held each year at the Arlington National Cemetery. It commences at 11:00 A.M with the procedure of wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The remainder happens in the Memorial Amphitheater. Usually, there are remarks from dignitaries and parades by Veterans organizations.

New York City Parade

This is one of the larger parades. It would include over 300 marching units, 25,000 marchers, and 30 floats. Though certain aspects have been revised to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. You may see television specials, virtual lines of march, motorcades, etc.

Founding City Veterans Day Parade

This is a parade at the “official founding city” of Veterans Day: Emporia in Kansas. Unlike other cities, Emporia hosts an All Veterans Tribute Week from November 1 to 11. Included events are memorial service, tribute show, roundtable discussions, veteran artist exhibit, Freedom Fest run, and more. Here, you can also visit 4 small Veterans monuments:

  • Civil War Monument: Fremont Park, 4th Ave & Union St
  • Civil War Monument: Maplewood & Memorial Lawn Cemeteries, 2000 Prairie St
  • Mexican-American, World War II Memorial: St. Catherine’s Church, 205 S Lawrence St
  • Spanish-American War Memorial: Peter Pan Park, S Neosho St & Kansas Ave

The traditional Veterans Day program is as follows:

  • Prelude and Posting of Colors
  • Playing of the band as the audience enters
  • Procession and Posting of Colors
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • National anthem singing
  • Introductory remarks
  • Playing of a patriotic themed song
  • Principle speakers
  • Moment of silence
  • Retiring of the colors

Customs

veterans-day-and-memorial-day

1. There are many customs regarding Memorial Day

  • Since 1998

The Boys Scout and Girls Scouts set a candle at each soldier’s gravesite at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. They do this on the Saturday before Memorial Day.

  • Since 1950

The 3rd Infantry placed a mini American flag at each soldier’s gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery. Then, they patrol for an entire day to make sure that the flags stay standing. They do this on the Thursday before Memorial Day.

  • Since 2001

The National Moment of Remembrance local time has been set at 3 pm by the National Moment of Remembrance Act.

  • Annually

All governors are requested by the President to direct the flag to be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day. This happens on all grounds, buildings, and vessels. Citizens do this at their homes.

2. Veterans Day also has a lot of customs

Moment of Silence

This refers to a legislation passed in 2016 – All Americans across the nation pause voluntarily for 2 minutes to honor the sacrifice of Veterans at 2:11 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Flag Flying

Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day flags are not flown at half-staff.

The U.S flag is flown from sunrise to sunset on stationary flagstaffs in public and on buildings. If it is illuminated, the flag can be displayed for 24 hours on Veterans Day. It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

Other etiquettes to keep in mind while flying the flag are:

  • If you are displaying the flag against a wall, make sure that the stars (the union) are in the top left corner. The same goes for when you are displaying it in a window. The people on the street should be able to see the stars in the upper left corner.
  • Do not put any flag or pennant above the flag. The only exception is during naval church services held by chaplains at sea.
  • Raise the U.S flag first and lower it last when flying it from adjacent flagpoles. Do not set any flag or pennant to the right of the U.S flag, as well.
  • The U.S flag has to be on the right and its staff should be in front if it is displayed with a different flag in a crossed-staff position against a wall.

Like Memorial Day, Veterans Day has multiple events, such as marathons, concerts, luncheons, dinners, education events at museums and libraries, military demonstrations, monument visits, and more.

Origin

Memorial Day started as Decoration Day after the Civil War. It was established by a Union vets organization named the Grand Army of the Republic. On May 5, 1968, the organization did this and appointed the day to be on May 30.

It is believed that the leader of the organization, General Logan, chose May 30th because flowers of both Northern and Southern states would have bloomed. However, some argue that he picked that date because it did not clash with any battle anniversaries. 

It was meant to honor soldiers who had sacrificed in the Civil War. Then, after the First World War, Decoration Day was extended to honor all those who died in all American wars. Decoration Day became Memorial Day and was officially deemed a national holiday in 1971 via the National Holiday Act passage by Congress.

Veterans Day came about at the end of World War I instead of the Civil War, like Memorial Day. It was initially known as Armistice Day, which was the name honoring the final moment of the war: the 11ths day of the 11th month at the 11th hour when the armistice agreement was signed.

Eventually, though, through a Presidential declaration in 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

Conclusion

This is the end of this article about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Hope you have read through all the information we have put together for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, you can easily answer other relevant questions, such as “Is Memorial Day just for Veterans?”

Hopefully, our article on Veterans vs. Memorial Day has been informative and interesting. Help us share this with other readers. Thank you in advance!

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