[Reposted from 2004, with links updated as needed. More Veterans Day posting to follow later in the day.]
I was asked today and have often wondered something about Veterans Day — who is it truly meant to honor? Memorial Day is easy — that is a day to remember and pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the uniform (though everyday we wake up free should be such a day). I knew the origins of today’s holiday, with Nov. 11 (the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918) formerly being set aside as Armistice Day to honor those who served in that great conflict. In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to include the veterans of WWII and Korea. Obviously, Veterans Day is a tribute to veterans, but my question was if it was truly meant for combat veterans or those like myself who only served in peacetime?
Q. What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?
A. Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty.
In light of this confirmation, I would like to thank all who served before me, all who served with me, all who served after me and all who currently serve and sacrifice.
Why the picture of the flowers on my posts about Veterans Day? That’s a pic of poppies from Flanders Field in Belgium, and the significance of that particular flower and its relation to Veterans (formerly Armistice) Day stem from the poem “In Flanders Fields” by WWI Canadian army physician John McCrae. The poem and its history can be found here (hattip to Damian Brooks at Babbling Brooks).