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What Makes Memorial Day Different From Veterans Day

Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 each year. Memorial Day is celebrated at the end of May. Towns across America hold parades, flags are placed on veterans’ graves, homeowners hang flags and bunting, and everything patriotic is on display. But why do we celebrate these two holidays? More importantly, what is the difference between the two?

The short answer is that Veterans Day is for the living, and Memorial Day is for the dead.

We should be thankful for the brave men and women who fought and continue to fight for our country and its freedoms every single day of the year, but Veterans Day is a time set aside to especially honor veterans. We collectively say “thank you for your service,” let them know they are respected and appreciated, and honor their service on our behalf. We can never repay the debt that we owe to our veterans, but saying “thank you” is where we can start. At the very least, Veterans Day should remind us that we should be thankful for our veterans if we’ve started taking them for granted.

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Memorial Day, on the other hand, is a more somber affair. While many look forward to a three-day weekend, special store sales, and barbecues with friends, there are so many American families that are dealing with the grief and loss of a loved one who died fighting for their country on our behalf.

On this day, we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We remember those who fought and died so that we can live in freedom and liberty here in the United States of America. We remember them and recognize the great price that has been laid down at the pillars of our freedom.

We mark Memorial Day on our calendars “lest we forget.”

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During the dark days of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in a wartime broadcast, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” That statement is true of all fallen veterans throughout our nation’s history — those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives so the rest of us could be free deserve all the respect and remembrance we can give.

This Memorial Day, we remember the fallen ones, the brave heroes of freedom who sacrificed their lives in service of their country, and we are thankful beyond measure for that sacrifice. We can celebrate, throw backyard barbecues, and have fun because that is the life of freedom for which so many brave men and women fought and died. But we do so with those brave ones in mind and a thankfulness in our hearts.

Below, play the video to listen to Johnny Cash perform his patriotic poem “Ragged Old Flag.”

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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.