Memorial Day vs Veterans Day vs Armed Forces Day differences and similarities are sometimes challenging to explain. After all, let’s just look at the fact that one of these is also called Armistice Day, and you already have more confusion than is necessary.
Still, we are here to clear the air and explain these holidays, one by one. So, let’s get started!
Memorial Day (Last Monday of May)
While Veterans Day honors all veterans, living and deceased, Memorial Day is strictly about those army members that gave their lives for the US independence and stability.
As opposed to the majority of holidays that have original dates for each year, Memorial Day is traditionally celebrated on the last Monday in May. There may be several good reasons for this.
It used to be and still is a tradition to decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers. Therefore, the last week of May is usually the time when all flowers are already in bloom. Next, there is the argument that the date was chosen simply because it was available — no other holidays around that period. Lastly, if it had been set a month or two earlier, it would have been troublesome to have good travelling conditions all over the country to pay due respect, especially in the old days.
Unofficially, while still a grave holiday for giving thanks to the deceased, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. It is celebrated by organizing parades and family gatherings, but most of all, by visiting the military cemeteries or memorials.
Another curiosity about Memorial Day as opposed to Veterans and Armed Forces Day is how the flag is flown. In the morning, the flag should be first hoisted all the way up, then lowered to the half-staff position. Then, the flag is briskly raised to the top at noon, and it remains there until sunset, or whenever it is to be taken off the flagpole (you can leave every flag during nighttime if the flagpole is well-lit).
Veterans Day (November 11)
In 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Eisenhower signed proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. It used to be called Armistice Day because it is celebrated at the same time when Armistice and Remembrance Day are celebrated all over the world to honor the World War One ending (November 11th, 1918). In order to finally have a day dedicated to US military veterans only, Armistice Day in the US was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. It was American veteran organizations that insisted on changing the holiday name.
Veterans Day is a federal holiday, and it pays tribute to all US Armed Forces military veterans (except those that were dishonored).
As for the Old Glory, the flag is flown full-staff all day. Therefore, even though the holiday pays tribute to both living and deceased veterans, the focus is mostly on the ones who are still among us.
There may be a two-minute silence period organized at some places at 11 am, but the flag is always flown at the top.
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Armed Forces Day (the Third Saturday in May)
While Veterans and Memorial Day celebrate those that have finished serving the US army either by retiring or passing away, Armed Forces Day honors everybody who has been a service member or has seen military service, in a manner of speaking. Congress announced on Aug. 31, 1949, the creation of Armed Forces Day to replace separate days recognizing the Army, Navy and Air Force.
This national holiday celebrates and honors all those that are still in the army (the reserves, National Guard, Coast Guard, on active duty), or military members or military personnel who have completed their service.
It’s very interesting how the holiday came to be. Namely, it was invented by Louis Johnson, the Secretary of Defense, in 1949. His wish was to unite several separate army branches’ holidays under one name and also to entice public interest into the importance of the military in civilian life.
Traditionally, the US celebrates Armed Forces Day with parades all over the country.
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Now would be the time to sum up some differences and similarities when discussing Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day vs. Armed Forces Day.
- First of all, Armed Forces Day is not a federal holiday, while Veterans Day and Memorial Day are.
- Flag is flown at half-staff till noon only on Memorial Day
- Veterans Day has a set date, as opposed to the other two whose celebration revolves around last Monday, i.e. third Saturday in May
-They all pay tribute to US army members. Memorial Day, however, emphasizes the importance of the deceased.