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Veterans Day is just around the corner and those familiar with the holiday are gearing up for celebrations while others ask themselves—didn’t we just have a military celebration a few months ago? And they would be right. Veterans Day is often conflated with Memorial Day which occurs in late May, while Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11 each year.

Their timing is not the only difference. While both Memorial Day and Veterans Day honor those who have performed military service for the U.S., they focus on very different aspects of service and as a result, each one is celebrated is quite differently.

How they originated

The first Memorial Day took place in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, where Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Because the Civil War claimed more lives than any other U.S. conflict, it necessitated the establishment of the nation’s first cemeteries. The holiday, first known as Decoration Day, has since expanded to honor all American war fatalities.

The first Veterans Day took place in 1919 on the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Originally known as Armistice Day, the celebration became a national holiday in 1938. It’s celebrated on November 11 each year to commemorate the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” the time at which World War I officially ended.

What they commemorate

Perhaps the most important distinction between the two, Memorial Day is a time for honoring and remembering those who died serving their country, while Veterans Day celebrates all military personnel, regardless of whether they served or died in wartime.

These significant differences give each holiday a very distinct mood and focus which signals how to approach and honor each individual date.

How they're celebrated

Celebration is another key difference between each holiday’s commemoration, and it’s one worth remembering. Rather than a jubilant celebration, Memorial Day serves more as an opportunity to pay respects and reflect on the American patriots who lost their life serving their country. You can honor fallen soldiers on Memorial Day by attending memorial services or visiting the cemetery and planting flags and flowers next to veteran graves. If you know a late U.S. soldier, consider reaching out to their family to let them know you’re thankful for their service.

Veterans Day, however, is a more celebratory affair. In addition to the messages of gratitude directed to veterans on this holiday, they are also supported and recognized with festive events and parades across the country. A quick online search should direct you to festivities in your area, like the Salute to Service event in downtown San Diego. Stores and parks also offer veterans exclusive military discounts as a token of gratitude for their services.

How you can have an impact

If you’d like to have a more direct impact on U.S. veterans, reach out to a nearby base or veteran organization and write thank-you cards. It may seem like a small gesture, but the personal touch makes a big difference. You can also donate to an organization that supports veterans in tangible ways such as those that assist wounded veterans or veterans with financial difficulties, or those that provide job counseling. You can also dedicate the holiday to patronizing veteran-owned businesses in your area.

Although these holidays are a great way to pay respects, one or two holidays don’t amount to the sacrifices of service men and women– that’s why it’s always important to practice gratitude when it comes to those that have served our nation.

The Salute to Service event in USS Midway Museum will be free of charge for all veterans and their families. Participants will enjoy a day full of live music, contests and free food. Don’t miss it! Click here to learn more about Subaru's commitment to our communities.

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