Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day vs Veterans Day - NOVA this week (May 28, 2016)

Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

Have you ever thought about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day? They’re rather similar – similar but distinct.

Disclaimer: This applies to the U.S. holidays. Our great friends and allies in the Commonwealth of Nations honor their veterans differently. Since I was privileged to live and serve in Canada, and Europe, I’ll add a few thoughts about Remembrance Day as well.

Memorial Day is a National Holiday to honor those who have DIED while serving in the Armed Forces.

Veterans Day is a National Holiday to honor those who SERVED in the Armed Forces. It of course includes all those we honor on Memorial Day, but it also includes those wo served without making the supreme sacrifice.

I’m writing about the difference for three reasons:  1. I am a logophile, or lover of words. I’m interested in subtle distinctions. 2. From time to time, people thank ME for my service on Memorial Day, and although I appreciate the sentiment, I am not worthy of recognition on Memorial Day. That’s reserved for Veterans Day when I get a free meal at Applebee’s.

And 3. I intended to post a quotation from a specific war memorial today, but when I thought about it, it is more appropriate for Veterans Day. If you check back in November, I’ll post it then.

It was easy enough to find another quotation. I’ve had the privilege of visiting quite a few war memorial monuments, and there are plenty of poignant quotations. (Parenthetical Tangent: I am intentionally using the word quotation vs quote – because quote is incorrect. Quotation is a noun, quote is a verb. What I post is a quotation, not a quote. Logophile remember?)

This quotation is from the main memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, known locally as Punchbowl. The cemetery sits in an extinct volcanic crater. It’s a beautiful site. 

Among the words on the monument it reads:

The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

If that rings a bell, it is from President Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby. Abe was pretty good with words.

As promised: The Commonwealth of Nations observe Remembrance Day to remember their war dead. However, they celebrate it on November 11 to mark the cessation of hostilities of WW I – the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. As this is the day the U.S. observes Veterans Day, it can be inferred they are the same, but truthfully Remembrance Day is more like Memorial Day, even though it coincides with Veterans Day. Remembrance Day is sometimes referred to as Poppy Day, as the patriots in those countries wear poppies in honor to their war dead, with reference to the poem In Flanders Fields by LtCol John McCrae, Canadian Army. He was good with words too.

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