There is a big difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a somber holiday dedicated to honor military fallen, with a special focus on those killed during military service or through enemy contact. Veterans Day, November 11, is set aside to thank and honor living veterans as well as deceased veterans who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime.
Both holidays often include parades, ceremonies and celebrations. Memorial Day also traditionally marks the beginning of summer with picnics and parties, but the day should include time spent to mourn and honor those who gave their lives for our country.
Memorial Day was first established as Decoration Day after the Civil War, the holiday was set aside for families and friends to visit and decorate the graves of troops lost in the conflict.
As time went on, the observance instead became known as “Memorial Day,” until 1971, when Congress declared it an official holiday set to fall annually on the last Monday in May. Read more about the history of Memorial Day.
Veterans Day began as a day to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in our country’s service and was originally called Armistice Day. It fell on November 11 because that is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. However, in 1954, the holiday was changed to “Veterans Day” in order to account for all veterans in all wars.
On Veterans Day we celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
President Eisenhower’s letter to Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs, designating him Chairman, Veterans Day National Committee
The White House Office
October 8, 1954
Dear Mr. Higley:
I have today signed a proclamation calling upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954 as Veterans Day. It is my earnest hope that all veterans, their organizations, and the entire citizenry will join hands to insure proper and widespread observance of this day. With the thought that it will be most helpful to coordinate the planning, I am suggesting the formation of a Veterans Day National Committee. In view of your great personal interest as well as your official responsibilities, I have designated you to serve as Chairman. You may include in the Committee membership such other persons as you desire to select and I am requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch to assist the Committee in its work in every way possible.
I have every confidence that our Nation will respond wholeheartedly in the appropriate observance of Veterans Day, 1954.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER