Celebrating those who served on Veterans Day

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on November 10, 2020 # Military / Veterans

For many citizens, the distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is fuzzy, both similarly viewed as an occasion for parades, flags, and a day off from work. Soldier carrying flag

But the difference between the two matters, especially to families of service members: Memorial Day is meant to honor the dead, while Veterans Day celebrates the living.

Memorial Day, first called “Decoration Day,” was conceived by a group of Union Army veterans after the Civil War ended as a day to lay flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. Bouquets and evergreens from public gardens and the President’s Conservatory and Treasury gardens were placed throughout Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, during a ceremony attended by thousands. In 1971, Memorial Day was expanded by Congress to honor all soldiers who have died in service to the country.

Veteran’s Day marks a celebration of millions of living veterans in the United States and around the world, a day of honor that originates from a day of peace. On November 11, 1918 — at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month–a cease-fire was declared between the Allied forces and Germany. Until World War II, Armistice Day celebrated the veterans of World War I with public meetings and a two-minute suspension of business at 11 a.m. In 1954, the newly renamed Veterans Day became a day to honor veterans of all wars.

This year’s public celebrations may be muted by the pandemic, but there are other ways to honor living veterans. Write a letter of appreciation to family members, neighbors, or friends who are serving or have served in the military. Display a flag from your home. Or simply take time to learn about the millions of men and women who have served the country by exploring the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project, featuring video interviews with service members from all branches.