Memorial Day mistake

With all the best intentions, people will wish veterans a “Happy Memorial Day.”

But those intentions are misdirected.

Headstones at cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Felix Stahlberg licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Memorial Day recognizes service members who had died.

Veterans Day (Nov. 11) is for the living. That is the time to celebrate living service members and veterans. While veterans often have an important role in Memorial Day celebrations and many participate, the day is not for them.

The Bias Busters guide “100 Questions and Answers About Veterans” explains the distinction:

“The Grand Army of the Republic established May 30 as Decoration Day, a time to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the end of the century, Memorial Day was being recognized throughout the country. Memorial Day is for mourning those who have died in military service. Saying ‘Happy Memorial Day’ is out of step. Some confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, which honors veterans. Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day marks the end of World War I fighting at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”

“100 Questions and Answers About Veterans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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