Muftic: Memorial Day or Decoration Day
May 26, 2016
I realized I was a bit confused about Memorial Day (May 30 this year) and Veterans Day (Nov.11) so I searched the internet.
The difference is that Memorial Day honors those who died in defense of our country; it became a federal holiday in 1971. Veterans Day honors living veterans of all wars.
Memorial Day was " originally called Decoration Day and was initiated to honor the soldiers for the Union and Confederate armies who died during the American Civil War in the 1860s. The holiday, per http://www.publicholidays.us/memorial, was meant to unify the celebration as a national day of remembrance instead of a holiday celebrated separately by the Union and Confederate states. Confederate flags are always planted on the graves of Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
In spite of the attempt at a unified memorial day, some Southern states also still hold their own Confederate memorial day (Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina) though it is not always a holiday closing offices or schools in every state. The dates are not uniform nor are the names of the celebrations. Texas, for example, calls it Confederate Heroes Day and it is held on Martin Luther King's birthday, Jan. 19.
Veterans Day names and celebrations differ from country to country. Originally called Armistice Day, it is to celebrate on the day the combatants signed the end World War I. Most countries (except France and Belgium) the holiday name. The United Kingdom and Canada in 1931 adopted the name Remembrance Day, while the United States chose All Veterans Day (later shortened to 'Veterans Day') in 1938 and later extended it to honor military veterans of all conflicts.
When I was a child in Oklahoma in the 1950s we still referred to it as Armistice Day. I remember wearing a crepe paper poppy on that day to remind us of the end of World War I and those that died in it.
I have often found myself on British Commonwealth territory in November. Artificial poppies, red with a distinctive black middle, are worn in remembrance of the fallen in the poppy-covered Flanders Fields in Belgium, inspired by a poem by John McCrae. Poppies are sold as fundraisers to provide charity to veterans of all wars. I always bought a poppy to remind me that our close allies in the British Commonwealth suffered even more than us in World War I.
In remembering my relatives and ancestors who fought on our behalf, I do have a special prayer. It contains thanks for their service but I also pray that the leaders who will send them to battle in the future have the wisdom to avoid putting them in harms way in vain and first seek other options to settle conflicts. War should only be a defensive action against an attack on us and our allies. To launch wars as a pre-emptive strike should never be in our country's traditions.
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