Because both days are related, they're discussed together. The first, Memorial Day, is commemorated on the last Monday in May and was first observed in 1866 and called Decoration Day beginning in 1868. Usage of Memorial Day wasn't common until after WW II and wasn't the holiday's official name until federal law called it that in 1967. The day is an occasion to honor the nation's men and women who died in military service to the country. More on that shortly.
Veterans Day was formerly known as Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day in Europe, that originally commemorated the end of WW I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918 when the guns went silent, or were supposed to. It was first observed in the US in 1919 and made a legal holiday here in 1938. In June, 1954, Congress enacted legislation changing the holiday's name to Veterans Day.
Both holidays wouldn't be needed in a nation dedicated to peace, but one committed to perpetual war for an unattainable peace dishonors its youth in life and disingenuously honors those who died in imperial wars for conquest and plunder. Nations waging wars only guarantee more of them in an endless cycle of violence, militarism, brutality and shameless inhumanity for those made to suffer and die in combat theaters - so the privileged who get to stay home can profit from them.
People don't want wars but can always be made to support and fight in them using the proved method of choice that always works - fear based on shameless lies and deception by governments with hidden motives unrevealed because who would go along with them if they did. Only by deceitfully scaring people enough to believe the nation's security is threatened will they support foreign wars and fight in them thinking they must. When traumatized enough, those wanting peace can be convinced to go along with the most outlandish schemes planned that if ever explained would be condemned and never supported.
If people knew the wisdom of iconic investigative journalist IF Stone, they'd understand in times of war, or events leading to it, truth is the first casualty. He told young journalists that "All governments are run by liars and nothing they say (about anything) should be believed, and on another occasion shortened it saying, "All governments lie."
Serial lying is the defining characteristic of the Bush administration, but all others earlier were duplicitous as well including the one led by Gerald Ford whose short two and a half year tenure only gave him less time to commit fewer crimes of war and against humanity. He ill-served the public with the time he had, yet we honor him and other presidents instead of exposing their shameless acts deserving condemnation.
It's almost like it's preordained and in the country's DNA that this nation is a warrior state sending its expendable youth to fight and die in foreign wars but not for national security, honor or the rights of free people anywhere. It's always for wealth and power that conquest and plunder afford the privileged who get to stay home safe and in comfort letting others do their dying, then shamelessly holding a day of remembrance honoring them for their sacrifice. This is the long tradition of this nation that since inception in 1776 has been at war with one or more adversaries every year without exception from that time to the present.
These two federal holidays warrant special condemnation. They represent a galling legacy of endless wars and false patriotic glorification of them including the so-called "good" one there was nothing good about as Ben Franklin knew and once said "There was never a good war or a bad peace." Choosing days to honor the dead who sacrificed everything is a sacrilege and failure to note they died in vain on the alter of power and privilege for the few. Their deaths assure an unending cycle of violence and killing with legions of nameless, faceless grave sites ahead only to be known by those who'll experience unconscionable loss.
These commemorative days stand above other federal holidays as symbols of this nation's depravity and ultimate crime against humanity and wasted lives it's taken. They ignore what Lincoln hoped for at Gettysburg in November, 1863 when he said "we here resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." He knew the horror of war and understood they must end. He also feared they would not and had to reflect that future wars would take their leaders to new battlefields in an endless cycle of death and destruction wars always guarantee.
Future commemorations of past wars should chart a new course - a vow pledging they'll end, and this nation resolves never again. Remembrance should then be an act of contrition and path to redemption, honoring the living, and taking a sacred oath of non-violence promising to stand by it for all time. It should be a solemn dedication to equity and social justice for all in a state of peace renouncing wars and shameless holidays in their honor. One day they'll be no more wars because young men and women no longer will fight in them. When it comes, days of memorial and honoring veterans will end replaced by a Peace Day honoring the living and sacredness of life so those past dead finally won't have died in vain. Pray it comes in time to matter.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.