Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day? And why the red poppies?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day? Since less than 1% of the population has served in our military at any given time, I imagine the majority of us don’t know these things, and I figured I would clarify it in honor of those who do so much for us, and have so little voice in things since they are such a small percentage of the voting and general, populace.

In a nutshell, Memorial Day is the day we remember members of the military who died in battle or as a result of injuries they received in battle. Veteran’s Day honors anyone who has served in the military, whether living or dead.

Memorial Day began to be celebrated after the Civil War, and was originally known as Decoration Day. It was a day when people would decorate the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers, a custom which is still practiced today. The idea of wearing poppies to honor America’s war dead allegedly originated from the poem, In Flanders Field, written in 1915 by John McCrae. Later, May 30, 1968 was set aside to celebrate Decoration Day because it did not correlate to any particular war. The day was later officially recognized as Memorial Day in 1971, and set to be recognized on the last Monday in May.

Veterans Day began to be celebrated after the end of World War I. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson designated November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. Observance of the day included parades and public gatherings. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier who was killed in action during the war was buried at Arlington National and the U.S. Congress designated the day as a legal holiday to honor all veterans. That same day, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest at Westminster Abbey in London well as at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation which set aside the day as a time to honor American veterans of all wars.

So, thank a veteran if you know one.