Even though we all had this drilled into our heads in school and, for some of us, in extra cirricular activities (like scouts or explorers), we still frequently get the meaning behind these two holidays confused.

Basically, Memorial Day is when we honor those who passed away in the service of the United States of America.  Veteran's Day honors all who served - living or dead.

According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day has its roots in the 1860s.  These early ceremonies were for fallen soldiers on both sides of the U. S. Civil War.  The earliest recorded instance of a ceremony was at the grave of a confederate soldier named John Quincy Marr, who died during the Battle of Fairfax Courthouse in June of 1861.

In the North, the earliest recorded ceremony was at the 1863 dedication of the military cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The first nationwide commemoration happened in May of 1868.  t that time, the holiday was called Decoration Day.  Following World War 2, the name of the holiday gradually shifted to Memorial Day, but the first official Memorial Day was not observed until 1971.

Veterans Day, on the other hand, is dedicated to all those who served in our armed forces.  Originally called Armistice Day, it was first observed on November 11th of 1919.  It commemorated the one year anniversary of the end of The Great War (AKA World War 1).

It took another few years for it to become an official federal holiday, though.  It became a federal holiday when Congressional Act 52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a was approved in May of 1938.  In 1954, Congress amended the bill to rename the holiday Veterans Day.

Even though people have a tendency to stick an apostrophe into the holiday (as in Veteran's or Veterans'), it technically does not belong there.  According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs:

"because it is not a day that 'belongs' to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans."

However you choose to celebrate these days, please keep in mind the reason behind the holidays.

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