Memorial Day

Observing Memorial Day

May 23, 2024

Do you know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day? Both are nationally observed holidays that honor those who served in the U.S. military. However, their origins and purposes are different.

Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2024 will occur on Monday, May 27.  Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War as a way to honor Civil War deaths before evolving into a day to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars. In 1971, it became an official federal holiday. 

Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11. It pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially thanks living veterans who served their country during war or peacetime. Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day" in 1919, on the first anniversary of the end of World War I. It became a national holiday in 1938. President Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.

Another military holiday is Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. This holiday honors those currently serving in the U.S. military and was first observed in 1950.

While Memorial Day is often seen as the unofficial start of summer, it can also be a day of remembrance and reflection. Stephany Tone, co-chair of the Veterans Employee Resource Group and Navy veteran, sees Memorial Day as a time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. “I spend Memorial Day reflecting on my years of service,” she shared. “I am intentional in appreciating how far I have come, embracing my loved ones a little more, knowing that many of my brothers and sisters did not get the opportunity to enjoy a life of freedom after service. I think that is a special way for me to feel connected to and to anyone else who wants to honor those who sacrificed their lives; to live fully” she said.

“Memorial Day and the 4th of July are, to me, the most patriotic holidays,” said VERG Executive Sponsor David von Damm, a Coast Guard veteran. “The 4th of July conjures a sense of freedom. But you can’t think about freedom without thinking about those who sacrificed themselves for that freedom. Memorial Day is a time when I reflect on those who made that sacrifice.”

Kevin Nguy, Electrical Project Manager in the Projects & Infrastructure Modernization Division and Navy veteran, agrees that Memorial Day is a time when he reflects on the sacrifices made by service members. “I see Memorial Day as a little more of a somber holiday. I celebrate the holiday by having friends and family over to enjoy time together. But I also take time to celebrate and remember those service members who sacrificed to protect our freedoms.”

David echoed that sentiment, saying, “I would ask everyone this Memorial Day to reflect on an individual they know who served and lost their life in service. Send that person’s memory a thought of appreciation.”

Below are some options for honoring and remembering on Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24 - Monday, May 27:

Sunday, May 26:

Monday, May 27:

In addition, many local city and county governments hold special services on Memorial Day.

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