Here's the Difference Between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Do you know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?

Memorial Day, celebrated the last Monday in May, honors those who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the military. Veterans Day, a federal holiday that falls on November 11 each year, is a day designated to honor all who have served in the military.

Memorial Day History

What became Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.

It was established 25 days earlier by Maj. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the nation.

By the end of the 19th century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in all wars.

The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, became more common after World War II and declared the official name by federal law in 1967.

Memorial Day had been observed on May 30, until being moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 under terms of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which became law in 1968.

Veterans Day History

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. Originally, the date was observed with parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. 

Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926. 

The federal legal holiday was observed on the fourth Monday in October during the mid-1970s. 

After some debate over the years regarding when to observe the holiday, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.

Since then, Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. 

City News Service's Steven Herbert contributed to this report

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