Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day: Here's the Difference

Children place flags for Memorial Day while learning the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
Anne Michelle Aiken, 7, and Lilly Aiken, 4, place American flags around Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor for an upcoming Memorial Day ceremony, May 24, 2018. Volunteers placed 491 flags around the monument, one for every Clemson graduate who has given the ultimate sacrifice. (Ken Scar/U.S. Army photo)

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

Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, is a solemn day of remembrance for those who died in military service. Veterans Day, November 11, is a day to honor all military veterans, both living and deceased, for their service and sacrifices.

A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months earlier. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a "Happy Memorial Day" after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.

Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a "happy" Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we've lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we've had.

Memorial Day vs. Veterans Day

Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, "I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived."

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes -- and unique ways to honor each. 

What is the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before they deployed. Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms -- men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.

How to Celebrate Veterans Day

Veterans Day ceremonies often include speeches, wreath-laying ceremonies, parades, and other events to honor veterans. Many businesses and organizations also offer discounts and special promotions to veterans as a token of appreciation for their service.

Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank them for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.

Related: How To Say 'Thank You Veterans' on Veterans Day

How to Honor Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, Americans often visit cemeteries and memorials to pay tribute to fallen service members. Many communities hold parades, ceremonies, and other events to honor the fallen and recognize their contributions to the nation.

You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.

Attend a memorial service at a national cemetery. Run or walk a mile to benefit the nonprofit Krista Anderson started in memory of her husband, and then pledge your mile for wear blue: run to remember.

Talk to your kids about sacrifice, service and what this three-day weekend really means. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Monday with a minute of silence.

And then, like Anderson said, live.

Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life

For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, sign up for a free membership and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues