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Memorial Day 2016: What’s the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day? History, more


This story was written by: Leada Gore

Memorial Day is May 30, 2016. It’s a day set aside to honor the military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day, though the two events have distinctly different purposes. Memorial Day is for remembering those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle, according to the Veterans Administration. Veterans Day, held in November, is set aside to thank and honor all those who served in the military – in wartime and peace. The day does honor veterans who have died but is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service.

This underscores the “fact that all of those who served- not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty,” the VA said.

History of Memorial Day

Now observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and dates back to the years following the Civil War. At the time, groups would decorate the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers, a practice still acknowledged with people often visiting cemeteries to decorate veteran graves.


While the tradition existed throughout the U.S., in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York – which had commemorated the day since May 5, 1866 – the official birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1868, May 30 was set aside as a nationwide Decoration Day, with the date selected because it didn’t correspond to the anniversary of any particular battle.

After World War I, the day became known to honor veterans of both the Civil War and the more recent conflict. It remained on May 30 until 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the late Monday in May to create a three-day holiday for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971, the same day Memorial Day was designated a federal holiday.