Both are federally recognized holidays in the United States, so many Americans get the last Monday of May and a day around November 11 off of work. Both days are meant to honor past service people.
What were we expected to think about on each day?
The short answer is that while Veterans Day (in November) primarily honors living personnel, Memorial Day honors the military personnel who died in the line of duty.
The people meant to be honored on Memorial Day aren’t the ones who can choose to march in parades or attend memorial services. That means publicly cheering the stranger wearing a U.S. Marines veteran badge might be more appropriate on another day.
Memorial Day Activities
The traditional activities on Memorial Day are decorating the grave of a service person, saying a prayer, and lowering an American flag to half-mast until noon. This can feel outdated, or unhelpful. Another option is to listen.
I’ve long thought of Monday as a time to support the veterans or civilian family members whose memories can remain raw months or years later. Those of us who have already worked through grief over a lost soldier, or who haven’t suffered any losses personally, can be receptive to stories of the military personnel who have died.
Those of you who are remembering people who were close to you should know your voice can be heard.
Remembering the Past for the Future
Speaking up and listening might be harder this year than most. Focusing on the meaning of Memorial Day can be harder when our own federal administrators don’t understand the holiday.
The current United States Commander in Chief has been talking over veterans and active duty personnel, military advisors, and military families since before his campaign. Despite opposition from senior military officials and others who care about ethics, public safety, and international relations, POTUS 45 is threatening to pardon war criminals next week. In my view, he is using a day meant for recognizing the human costs of service to boost his horrific attacks on humanity.
Please take a moment for yourselves. Enjoy an extra day off of work if you get one. But also, please, take a moment on Monday to consider the threads that weave us together.
This Memorial Day, Veterans For Peace is reminding the public that the human cost of war is more than human soldiers, but also the people who are caught in the crossfire. https://t.co/hjAvqPW7c4
— Veterans For Peace (@VFPNational) May 24, 2019
May you have a thoughtful Memorial Day.