There’s something you should know about Veterans Day: It’s not Memorial Day.

(And, logic follows—Memorial Day is not Veterans Day.)

I know what you’re thinking: Well, DUH, EMILY! Obviously it isn’t Memorial Day. Memorial Day is in May. We thank our servicemen and women, get a day off of work, and fire up the grill for the first burgers of the summer. Everyone knows that!

And you would be right. Memorial Day is in May, and usually it is the first real picnic of the summer (that is, if you live in Michigan, where Winter lasts that long). And we usually do take time to thank our servicemen and women, and appropriately so.

Veterans Day, on the other hand, is in November, when we’re feeling the first tinges of winter and packing up the grill for the season. And yes, we take time to thank our servicemen and women, and appropriately so.

BUT…here’s where you’re wrong. There’s actually a huge difference between Veterans Day and Memorial day that’s way more important than the state of your grill. And it’s all about who you’re thanking.

Memorial Day is when we are to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. It’s actually about those who have served and died because of their service—not those who are currently serving. It’s the day you go to the cemetery and lay flowers and a flag at your grandpa’s, or uncle’s, or dad’s grave, because he served and died in WWII, or Vietnam, or Iraq. That’s what Memorial Day is for. It’s a day for remembrance, for gratitude, and to ponder what it means to be brave, patriotic, and selfless.

Veterans Day is when we get to thank the heroes in uniform who are still among us. We get to shake their hands and show our gratitude and appreciation for their work both past and present in keeping our country safe and free. We get to look into the eyes of courage, and see not the absence of fear but the resolve to not be mastered by it.

So now you know the true difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and you can now appropriately observe both days.

Having Said All That…

You’ll notice this post is a day late. It’s November 12. Yesterday, November 11, was Veterans Day. There’s a reason for that.

Because after I just explained the purpose of those different days and what we honor and when, I’m going to say that it doesn’t matter.

And when I say it doesn’t matter, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t have those days. I mean that we shouldn’t do those things only on those days. Two days a year is not an adequate response for what we’re recognizing and honoring. Appropriate, yes. Adequate, no.

I’m probably not the first to remind you of this, and I may even sound cliché. But it’s worth saying again.

Don’t wait for November 11 to thank our front line (and back line) heroes. Do it everyday. Do it when you see them in the airport, at McDonalds, and anywhere else you might encounter the uniform. And don’t ever forget those who’ve gone on before us in pursuit of freedom.

Thanks, Veterans, on this November 12, for your service to our country and to me. Thank you for buying me the freedom to work where I want, worship without fear, and even type this blog. I owe you more than I could pay. 


[Image via jpellgen/flickr]