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I am privileged to speak at two Veterans Day observances this year and, in preparation for the events, I’ve been thinking about the true significance of the holiday.
Many people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those, living or dead, who served honorably in the military, in war or in peace. Originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, it became a legal holiday in 1919 to honor those who had died. In 1954, after World War II, it was officially renamed “Veterans Day” and set aside to honor veterans of all American wars, living or dead.
Memorial Day, on the other hand, was first officially observed in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at what became Arlington, Virginia, National Cemetery, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. It is now a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.