By Duke Birch, Director of Veterans Programs / SDM
With Memorial Day approaching I wanted to reach out and bring up a few points about military holidays. Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day are different holidays created for different reasons and for different people.
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. Thanks to President Harry S. Truman, it’s a day to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. President Truman led the effort to establish a holiday in order for citizens to unite and to honor our military heroes for their patriotic service in support of the United States of America.
On a personal note,
In the midst of BBQs, get-togethers, sales, and celebrations, please remember those who sacrificed all, who made conscious decisions to give their life for their brothers and sisters in arms and for their country, fully knowing that doing so they would never see their wife, husband, son, or daughter again. In all the commercialization, this is the forgotten part I believe around this day, sacred to so many who have lost their friends in combat, or who have lost that father, mother, brother or sister, is that they did so in this country for the most part as volunteers. So many made a conscious decision to go back for their brothers in arms, to keep engaging the enemy, to “Run to the sound of the guns”, to “Never leave a man behind” knowing that the decision they were making could very well be their last, but paying that price with honor, duty, loyalty, and dedication simply because that is what a Soldier/Marine/Airman/Sailor does, and sometimes because they had a little more intestinal fortitude in them than the rest of us. Those values are engrained in them, and they will meet up with their fellow heroes in Valhalla, Fiddlers Green, Heaven, or wherever the best of each generation meet to have a drink and be honored by those of us who did not pay the ultimate price.
So I ask that we all enjoy Memorial Day, see family and friends, and look around at the things we take for granted every day, full grocery stores, the right to speak our mind and act with conscience, the ability to travel where we want, and so many other freedoms we are blessed with, and wherever you celebrate Memorial day, raise a glass of beer, wine, or even iced tea to those who made it possible. Say “Thank you for your sacrifice” if you know someone who has lost that special person in service to our country, but please remember this day is about those no longer with us, real people who could be sitting at those same celebrations if not for their unusual bravery.