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Memorial Day vs Veterans Day Patriotic PSA

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Every year I see it on social media and every year I say I should do a little patriotic PSA. Well, friends, today is that day: because we need to know the difference between Memorial Day vs Veterans Day. We’ll even throw in a little explanation of Armed Forces Day as well! 

Happy Memorial Day!

That’s like nails on a chalkboard, y’all.

Let’s not say that. Because it’s not exactly a happy occasion or a time to celebrate if your family lost a loved one in the service of our country. And that’s exactly what Memorial Day is meant to mark. 

Yet every year we see this said, often followed by a “thank you for your service!” to all vets. 

Friends, I say this with love. Please stop doing that.

Here’s what you need to know about Memorial Day vs Veterans Day (and Armed Forces Day as well!).

washington monument sunrise US flags for Memorial Day

The Short And Sweet: Memorial Day vs Veterans Day vs Armed Forces Day

  • Memorial Day: honors those who lost their lives in the military service of our country. 
  • Veterans Day: honors those that have served in the military.
  • Armed Forces Day: honors those serving. 
Whats the difference between Memorial Day vs Veterans Day Vs Armed Forces Day

When is Memorial Day in the US?

Memorial Day is marked on the last Monday of May. 

Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

It’s a public holiday that marks back to the post-Civil War era. A Union veteran organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), created Decoration Day. 

The idea was to decorate graves of the war dead with flowers. The day was to be observed on May 30 since flowers all over the country should be in bloom at that time. 

Congress made it an official holiday by signing The National Holiday Act of 1971.

Arlington National Cemetery for memorial day vs veterans day
Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most profound places you can visit in Washington DC.

When is Veterans Day in the US?

Veterans Day is marked on November 11 in the United States. 

Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?

It was once called Armistice Day and honored the end of World War I. That war ended on November 11, 1918, and was hoped to be the end of all wars. 

Congress amended the Act of 1938 to read Veterans instead of Armistice in 1954. 

On November 11 it is appropriate to thank American veterans of all wars and all former service members. 

memorial day vs veterans day

When (And What) Is Armed Forces Day?

Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of May. 

Why Do We Celebrate Armed Forces Day?

Because serving our country in the armed forces is a very big deal, a tough job, and these guys and gals deserve at least one day of THANK YOU from a grateful nation. 

Okay, so that’s why I think we should celebrate it. Ahem. 

President Harry Truman came up with this idea and I think he was spot on. Originally there was a day to honor each branch of the armed services (and often you’ll see folks celebrating on the branch “birthday” in this way).

But on August 21, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day, uniting them all into one day of celebration. 

Do you see how each of these days is marked and meant to be acknowledged with a different purpose in mind? While I know it is well-meaning, I also know my military friends can find it a bit frustrating to see folks thanking a vet for their day at the lake on Memorial Day. 

Let’s give them the respect and honor they deserve by knowing the difference between Memorial Day vs Veterans Day vs Armed Forces Day. 

Social Media Images For Memorial, Veterans, and Armed Forces Day

I share all this not to upset or point fingers, but to gently nudge you along when it comes to social media posts. 

Here are a few ideas if you want to share a thank you but don’t know exactly what might be appropriate!

We Remember and Honor Those we Lost on Memorial Day
We honor those who fought and served on Veterans Day
We honor those who are serving on Armed Forces Day

PS. Labor Day (celebrates the US workforce, not military-affiliated) and the Fourth of July  (celebrating the day the US declared independence from Great Britain) are totally different as well! 

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