This past Saturday was Armed Forces Day; next Monday is Memorial Day. Two very different days that many Americans get confused. Add in Veterans Day and it all becomes a jumble. I understand. Military holidays can be as confusing as military jargon—unfamiliar to those who don’t live and breathe it.
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is, today I’m going to give you a quick guide. It’s easy, I promise!
And, if you’ve wondered what military families wish you understood or what we most appreciate, I’ll share that too.
MILITARY HOLIDAYS: A Quick Guide
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
The military is a family. Yes, we bicker with our brothers from other branches, but when you know what hits the fan, we really don’t care what color your uniform is or how nice your temporary lodging is. We band together and stand up to protect American citizens from evil and those intent on doing us harm.
The military has more remembrance days scattered throughout the year than many realize. Just as your family remembers the day the house burned down or the morning Dad got released after his heart surgery, the military family remembers battles that cost lives and attacks that changed the way we fight. But perhaps more than any other special days, most military members want you to remember these three holidays each year.
Armed Forces Day
When: The third Saturday in May.
Recognizes: Current active duty members in all five branches.
When: The official federal holiday is the last Monday in May, but a movement is building to move it back to its original date of May 30th.
Recognizes: Military members who died while serving in the Armed Forces.
When: November 11th.
Recognizes: All who have served in the Armed Forces regardless of whether that was in wartime or peacetime, whether they are alive or have passed on, and whether they served for a full career or for only a short time.
HONORING MILITARY FAMILIES
As a family, each branch of the Department of Defense has its own quirks and preferences. Those outside of the family sometimes wonder about our nicknames for or snide remarks at each other. But when it comes right down to it, some things are (obviously) more important than others.
To help civilians better understand what is important when it comes to Memorial Day, I polled some of my military friends. Here is our best advice as you make your plans for Memorial Day weekend.
1. Military families most want you to understand that Memorial Day honors those who gave their lives.
While we all (active duty, veterans, and families) appreciate when you thank us for our service and sacrifice, Memorial Day is not about the living. It’s about those who gave their life while on duty. It’s about honoring those who are no longer with us. It’s about remembering why they died.
If you want to honor us, the living, on Memorial Day then honor those who died. Get active with organizations that place flags at veteran cemeteries. Take a moment over the weekend to consider their bravery or sacrifice, or spend some time with veterans or military families, asking about their memories of friends and loved ones lost in battle.
You could also make sure your flag at home is at half-staff until noon. No one is sure when this tradition started, but an Army regulation book from 1906 includes this bit of flag etiquette. It likely adds to the confusion surrounding Memorial Day. The symbolism is simple: from sunrise to noon, remember the fallen; from noon to sundown, honor the living.
2. Honor the symbols we fight under.
I’ve heard many military spouses say that they love to see the American flag hanging outside of homes and businesses. That doesn’t mean we won’t honor your right to use it as part of your exercise of free speech, but please understand that it means more to us than a representation of America. As one wife said, “When I see the flag, I see the blood, sweat, and tears of every service member and their loved ones since the American Revolution.”
The same could be said of other symbols of America. So yes, it bothers us when we see a ripped or battered flag flying in the breeze. And when people don’t stand quietly for the Star Spangled Banner (even when it plays over the radio in a store) or for Taps.
3. We are not all soldiers.
Okay, this is finer point, but still a bit irritating to all those outside of the Army. People who enlist in the Army are Soldiers. The rest of us are not.
Members of the Air Force are Airmen, members of the Navy are Sailors, members of the Coast Guard are Guardsmen, and members of the Marines are, well, Marines. If you want one word that summarizes everyone, use something like service members or warriors.
Spending time with the military certainly lends itself to some remarkable experiences, and I’ve been privileged to have had my share. ~Simon Sinek
Military holidays like Memorial Day remain close to my heart. The sacrifices of our service members and their families dating back to the 1700s weigh on my heart every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner or see a veterans cemetery.
As a military daughter and a military wife, I ask you, please, take a moment this weekend to consider those who have offered so much.
If you know a military spouse struggling to thrive within the military lifestyle, check out my book, The Warrior’s Bride. God didn’t intend for us to merely survive our life on earth. He wants us to thrive!
The call came down from Command, and your warrior husband is out the door, leaving you behind to handle whatever he has left undone. Whether it’s the day-to-day monotony, the inevitable appliance that breaks, or the months without his presence beside you, being a military spouse brings challenges few appreciate. Yet God sees you and longs for you to boldly step into His plan. He purposely chose you for this moment—for your man. He wants to give you abundantly more than what you have right now and desires you to thrive as your warrior’s bride.