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Memorial? Armed Forces? Veterans? What's the difference?

Throughout a typical United States calendar year, there are several government holidays assigned to a specific event or remembrance. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are two of those, both in recognition of the military. There is a third, that being Armed Forces Day, but unlike the aforementioned two, Armed Forces is not an observed national day off. There is a common misconception that all three holidays celebrate or remember the same thing. Let's go over each holiday and discover why, in fact, each holiday is unique.

May is Memorial Day, and is the most somber one of them all. It was first known as Decoration Day, being first observed after the Civil War, and then in 1971 became the federal holiday we know today. It is not set on a specific date, but rather on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is when the fallen are honored and mourned, whether they served and fell nationally or abroad. Typical celebrations are held in a very reserved manner, out of respect for those who have been lost in the line of duty, never making it back home to their loved ones. So while this day marks the unofficial beginning of summer fun, for many it is a quiet, private day to remember and reflect on the service members that paid the highest price for their country.

May is also the month for Armed Forces Day, although it is often overlooked due to Memorial Day. Similar to Memorial Day, this day of recognition is not assigned a specific date; instead, it occurs on the third Saturday of May. Armed Forces Day pays tribute to the current active duty personnel serving nationwide and overseas, to include reservists and guard. There's not as much pomp and circumstance that surrounds this day, but with May being designated as National Military Appreciation Month, it's not uncommon for fun events to be held on this day for military families and communities on and around heavily populated bases.

November plays host to Veterans Day, which happens on November 11th each year. This special day was originally known as Armistice Day, representing the formal end of WWI at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918, marking the armistice with Germany. Armistice Day was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954 by President Dwight D Eisenhower, keeping the same date every year since, save for a brief period from 1971-1974, when it was instead observed on the fourth Monday in October because of a bill passed by the US Congress. Veterans Day is just as it sounds: A day of remembering all the veterans, whether still alive or having passed on, that have served in some capacity in any of the military branches. One does not necessarily have to be separated or retired from the military to be considered a veteran, hence why this day also includes active duty personnel in its celebrations.

While these three military-based holidays are the most well-known, there are over a dozen others out there that honor, celebrate, and pay tribute to the service members and their families in some way, shape, or form. If you are of affiliation, we thank you and yours for your sacrifices every day to serve the country we are proud to be in.

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