To observe the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, former sentinels are joined by the Ceremonial Unit of the U.S. Capitol Police for a flag folding observance at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. The special flag was flown over several American military cemeteries at World War I battle sites in France.
Both Veterans Day and Memorial Day honor the U.S. military community, but the two holidays serve different purposes — and their origins are rooted in two different wars.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day
Celebrated every November, Veterans Day honors all who have served in the U.S. military.
The federal holiday is observed on Nov. 11, the day World War I ended in 1918.
A year later, President Woodrow Wilson celebrated what was originally known as Armistice Day for the first time. But it wasn’t until 1938 that Congress recognized it as an official federal holiday.
In 1954, the holiday’s name was changed to Veterans Day, to honor the veterans of all wars the U.S. has fought. In France and elsewhere in Europe, the day continues to be known as Armistice Day.
Veteran’s Day was actually celebrated in October for several years, though.
The Uniform Holiday Act of 1968 moved the holiday from Nov. 11 to the “fourth Monday in October” to move ensure a long weekend for workers.
Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War
In contrast, Memorial Day specifically honors those who have died in U.S. military service.
The annual tradition of decorating fallen soldiers’ graves with flags and flowers is believed to have originated in Waterloo, N.Y. That tradition is still carried on today all over the country.