What Exactly Is Memorial Day?

2014-05-16_13-50-53I recently had a conversation with an individual who said to me “Memorial Day, Veterans Day, what’s the difference; they are both the same thing.” I was quite surprised by this so I started wondering just how many people out there didn’t really know that they are two different observances. While they both celebrate veterans, Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country. Veteran’s Day is observed to thank and honor all veterans who served their country honorably, whether they served in war or peacetime.

Memorial Day was started in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) started “Decoration Day” as the time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. After WWI it was expanded to honor all who died in American wars. It wasn’t until 1971 that it was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress. Veteran’s Day actually started out as “Armistice Day,” a day to celebrate the end of WWI. It remained so until 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veteran’s Day Proclamation, which stated “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.”

On Monday, May 26th at 10:30 AM at the Limestone County Event Center, the Alabama Veterans’ Museum and Archives will be hosting our annual Memorial Day Program. This program will honor and remember our fallen veterans since last Memorial Day. I am pleased to announce that Brig. Gen Theodore “Ted” Harrison, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Contracting Command will be our special guest speaker. We will also be honored with music provided by the Army Material Commands Yellahammer Brass Quintet.


Meet Brig. Gen Theodore Harrison:

General Harrison was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Air Defense Artillery after graduating as a distinguished military graduate from Virginia Tech in 1980. He has served at various levels of command and staff positions throughout his career.

He is a graduate of the Senior Service College Fellowship Program at the University of Texas, Austin. He holds a master’s in Business Administration from Frostburg State University, Md., and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management from Virginia Tech. He is a graduate of the Air Defense Artillery Basic Course, Aviation Officer Advanced Course (with honors), Defense Program Managers Course, and Command and General Staff College. General Harrison is Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Level III certified in both contracting and program management.

General Harrison’s military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (one oak leaf cluster), Bronze Star Medal (one oak leaf cluster), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (one oak leaf cluster), the Meritorious Service Medal (three oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Services Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Aviator Wings, the Ranger Tab, and the Parachutist Badge.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director – Alabama Veterans’ Museum