Keep an eye on your newsfeed this Memorial Day. I can nearly guarantee you that if you’re connected with veterans on social media, you’ll see a variety of posts—some constructive and some otherwise—educating others on the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Community leaders collaborating to serve veterans can take this as a two-fold lesson in both the value of military cultural competency, and the power of social media as a communication tool. Collaborative leaders should be mindful that, outside of the veterans’ space, there are only certain times of year when the media and our communities at large turn their attention to the issues that veterans face year-round. It’s valuable for your collaborative approach these special days with extra energy and attention for two reasons:
Our list includes service birthdays, family appreciation days, official days of recognition, military anniversaries, and more. So, without further ado, here is NVI’s compendium of mil-vet holidays:
Service birthdays are the days on which a military service (also sometimes referred to as a “branch”, like the Marine Corps or the Army, for example) was founded, and are drilled into service members’ memories during basic training. These are celebrated formally, often with a ball, as well as more casually with events like 5K races and receptions.
These dates are important not just as a way to mark the historical importance of these battles and events, but to remember those who served, and honor military heritage. They’re also personal for many members of the military, and veteran families. Military service is often passed from generation to generation, so it’s likely that the veteran families you serve will have a personal connection--parent, grandparent, or other relative--to these dates.
These dates are important to recognize, but they’re also important to distinguish. While these days all honor veterans, some honor active duty, some honor veterans with specific decorations and statuses, and one honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice. That gravity means it’s vital to observe the differences. That’s why we’ll break this section down a bit more.
March 29, 2019 - Vietnam War Veterans Day
This date recognizes those who served on active duty between the dates November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, whether or not they served in theater. It’s an opportunity to thank these veterans for their service and sacrifice. It’s also an especially meaningful time to say “welcome home” to veterans who may not have been welcomed when they returned.
May 18, 2019 - Armed Forces Day
This day recognizes those who are currently serving, regardless of branch or era.
May 27, 2019 - Memorial Day
Memorial Day honors the service and sacrifice of those who died while serving in the military.
August 7, 2019 - Purple Heart Day
This date, set on the anniversary of the creation of the nation’s oldest military merit decoration, recognizes the bravery and service of those awarded the Purple Heart for actions while wounded or killed in action.
September 21, 2019 - National POW/MIA Recognition Day
POW/MIA Recognition Day is a time to remember the 82,000 servicemembers in prisoner of war or missing in action status.
October 26, 2019 - National Day of the Deployed
This is a newer day of recognition, founded in North Dakota in 2006 and recognized nationally beginning in 2011. It honors those currently deployed.
November 11, 2019 - Veterans Day
Veterans Day was celebrated as Armistice Day for many years before changing to Veterans Day in the 1950s, and was signed into law in 1975. The date is also observed by Canada, Britain, and Australia as “Remembrance Day.”
Families serve alongside their service member, and transition when the service member transitions. It’s important to recognize their strengths and sacrifices. From celebrating military children to honoring Gold Star family members, these days are a meaningful recognition of the shared service and experience of military families.
While these holidays are not for veteran recognition, they carry extra meaning for those who have served. They are also days on which patriotism is at a high, and can be prime opportunities for outreach, education, and fundraising.