What's the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

On Wednesday, people across the United States will pay tribute those who have served the country in the armed forces with Veterans Day. While it has similarities to Memorial Day, another holiday that honors the military, it's important to note the differences between both days.

While each day is important, each is dedicated to different people who served the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day is meant to honor people in the military who died in service, especially "those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle." While those who made the ultimate sacrifice are still honored on Veterans Day, it's a day meant to celebrate all people who served in the military, including those who are still alive.

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs explains that Veterans Day is largely dedicated to the living veterans, showing that all veterans made sacrifices and helped their country, not only the ones who gave their lives.

Non-profit Homes for Our Troops also explained the different ways that people can celebrate each holiday and pay tribute to the troops, such as going to services and laying flowers in cemeteries on Memorial Day. For Veterans Day, the non-profit explained that people can volunteer at veterans' facilities and thank veterans directly for their service to show appreciation. The website also notes that going to memorial services and decorating veterans' graves are also appropriate on Veterans Day.

November 11 has been a day to honor veterans since 1919. President Woodrow Wilson declared it "Armistice Day" a year after the Treaty Of Versailles was signed, honoring veterans who served in the first World War. In 1938, Congress approved an act that would make it a national, legal holiday. In 1954, it became a day to commemorate all veterans rather than just those from "The Great War," according to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

In 1968, the "Uniform Holiday Bill" was signed, which moved the date that Veterans Day was observed on slightly. The bill decided that Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, as well as Veterans Day would all be celebrated on Mondays. This moved Veterans Day to the last Monday in October, but it was later returned to November 11 in 1975.

Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War; although like Veterans Day, it has ties to WWI. It was first observed in 1866 in Waterloo, New York (as recognized by Congress in 1966), but national "Decoration Day" observances began in 1868, according to the Dept. of Veteran Affairs. After WWI, Memorial Day was expanded from being a day to remember those lost during the Civil War to one to honor all Americans who served in war. It was declared a national holiday in 1971.

Thousands of flags are placed as a tribute to the memory of veterans of the US military during the Veterans Day celebrations in Covina, California on November 09, 2019. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty