Veterans Day is coming up on November 11th and after seeing too many Facebook posts mixing up this day with Memorial Day (May 28th), I think it’s high time we Americans learn the difference between the two important holidays so we can teach our children what patriotism really means. And I’ll give you a hint: it’s not just wearing an American flag shirt or posting a general “thanks” on social media.
When do we observe/celebrate each holiday:
Memorial Day: Last Monday in May
Veterans Day: November 11th
What the days honor:
Memorial Day: A day to honor military personnel who died in the service of their country.
Veterans Day: A day to honor everyone who has served or is serving in the U.S. military. It’s not limited to only those who were wounded or killed, who fought in battle, or who served at a time of war.
How they’re typically observed:
Memorial Day: Many visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of fallen servicemen with American flags and flowers. Many towns hold parades and a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 P.M. local time.
Veterans Day: Many towns hold parades, churches schedule special services, and people thank living veterans for their service and remember all those who have served.
Americans are nothing but proud of their country and this includes putting our flag on literally everything. You’d think for something our military takes so seriously and respects so fiercely, we citizens would show the same honor to our national flag. Yet every year, I see my fellow Americans show their patriotism with red, white and blue bumper stickers, t-shirts, and even shot glasses. Is gaudy paraphernalia and general, impersonal “thanks” posts on social media the best we can do when teaching our kids what patriotism really means?
So how can we get off social media and show our gratitude in real life this upcoming Veterans Day?
First, memorize the difference in these two great holidays and respect them each for what they are. Second, teach your kids the meaning of the days. We’re all trying to raise respectful children, right? This is a great step in doing just that. Third, go out and observe this year! Live your patriotism and teach your children how to show their gratitude beyond a simple Facebook post.
Here are some suggestions of ways you can observe Veterans Day with your families this year (from the mouths of actual Veterans, originally reported to Michelle Crouch of Reader’s Digest):
“When people say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ I sometimes have the sense that they don’t know what they’re thanking you for. What I appreciated after I got back was when people thanked me, asked what I did in the military, and listened. Even better was when I said, ‘I was on patrol in Kandahar,’ and they knew where it was.”
Former Air Force Capt. Brian Castner, and author of the Iraq war memoir The Long Walk
“Those cards from kids we don’t know, full of their drawings and saying, ‘thank you for your service’? Those are the best.”
Army Sgt. First Class Sheila White
“I returned from going to the store one Veterans Day, and someone had left a mum on my doorstep at home with a flag and a card that said ‘Thank you for your service.’ It meant so much. To whoever did that: thank you.”
Army Maj. Holly Cribb
“Sending care packages is a must, and it doesn’t matter what’s in there. Just getting a box that you know your family put together, even picking up a bag of chips that you know was in your mother’s hand, feels really good.”
Navy Damage Controlman First Class Latrell Bellinger
And from my own Veteran brother, Corporal William Johnston:
“Attend Veterans Day parades, talk to your children about what being a Veteran is and what it means to live in this country, call your family members and friends. If you see a Veteran, just say hi and thank you. Doing those things would honor Veterans. And the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day? Memorial Day is a sacred day, even for Veterans. The true heroes of any conflict who sacrifice their lives are those who do not come home. They are the heroes.”