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Memorial Day 2020: What’s the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?

Photo of flags at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 17, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley/TNS)

Memorial Day is commemorated on the last Monday in May. While serving as the unofficial start of summer, it is mainly a time set aside to honor those who died in service to their country.

The purpose of Memorial Day and Veterans Day – marked each year in November – are very different.

Here’s the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day:

Memorial Day

Memorial Day traces its roots back the tradition of Decoration Day in the 1860s, in which the graves of war dead were decorated with flowers. Decoration Day was observed in both the North and South in the days following the Civil War.

The first large observance was held in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery. Congress officially established Memorial Day on 1971.

Memorial Day is a time set aside for remembering and honoring military personnel that died in the service of their country, particularly those killed in battle.

Memorial Day has several unique traditions. On December 2000, Congress passed a law establishing a “The National Moment of Remembrance. The day encourages Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. for a moment of reflection.

Memorial Day has a special flag tradition as well. On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half staff from sunrise until noon, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset in honor of the nation’s battle heroes.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is on Nov. 11, a tradition that marks the end of World War I. The day was later expanded to include veterans of all wars, both living and dead.

Veterans Day honors all those who served in the U.S. military, whether in war or peacetime.


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