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Understanding the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Understanding the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Posted by Hayley Adams on Nov 11th 2021

Veterans Day is always on November 11th, while Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. Both days recognize veterans, but more specifically, Veterans Day honors all veterans, living or dead, and gives thanks to living veterans who served their country during war or peacetime. Meanwhile, Memorial Day honors those who have died during service.

Here is a quick look at the histories from each day to help understand the importance of each of these holidays.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day, on the other hand, recognizes all U.S. veterans for their service and sacrifice on behalf of their country.

It actually originated as “Armistice Day”, to honor the ending of WWI on November 11, 1919. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed 1919 would be the first annual commemoration of the armistice, saying it should be a day of reflections filled with "solemn pride" in the heroism of the country's service members. 

Several years later, Congress made it an official holiday that would be recognized annually and in 1954, they changed the name to Veterans Day, making sure it honored all American veterans -- not just those who served in WWI.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day honors all members of the military who have died serving our country. Previously known as "Decoration Day" because of its tradition of decorating the graves of fallen service members, originating after the Civil War. The first memorial event was held on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Some states continue to recognize Memorial Day on May 30. However, in 1971, federal lawmakers changed the national observance date to be the last Monday in May. They also made sure the day would honor all military members who died in any American Wars -- not just those from the Civil War.


Both holidays are important in each of their ways, and are both great occasions to pause for a moment of remembrance or to thank a veteran. If you are looking for ways to give back to the veteran community, be sure to check out some of these blogs!