Veteran’s Day versus Memorial Day

Vaughn Hardacker here: There are two holidays that always seem to confuse a lot of people. One is Veterans Day (for many years known as Armistice Day) and Memorial Day while both honor our military veterans. They are not the same.

Veterans Day

Vaughn Hardacker, a young 20 years old Marine in Vietnam 1968

We celebrate it every year, but how did Veterans Day come into existence? It dates back to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. While this day will always be known as the official end of World War I, also known as The Great War, it was at the eleventh hour of the eleventh hour of November 1918 (it is for this reason the holiday is always celebrated on the 11th regardless of which day of the week it falls on), that the war truly came to an end when the armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities between German and the Allied Nations, went into effect. The following November in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson became known as the president who celebrated the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The name later changed following the Second World War and Korean War in November 1938 when it became the legal Federal Holiday we know and honor today, Veterans Day, which is dedicated to American veterans of all the wars.

Memorial Day

People have honored the sacrifices of soldiers for as long as there have been wars, Memorial Day as we know it in the United States got its start during the American Civil War. As the conflict wound down, people across the North and South tried to honor fallen soldiers.

Front of Vaughn L. Hardacker’s Purple Heart (Posthumous) awarded August 15, 1944

One such ceremony was held on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Local all-black churches led a gathering of roughly ten thousand people, many of whom were former slaves,  in properly reburying Union soldiers and holding a ceremony to honor their sacrifice and dedicate the new cemetery. The event included speeches, the laying of wreaths and crosses, drills performed by Union soldiers and even picnicking. However, it’s unclear if the event influenced any other such ceremonies in the country, so it remains ambiguous if it should actually be considered the first Memorial Day.The Birthplace(s) of Memorial Day. There are numerous places in the country that claim to have first celebrated Memorial Day a recurring holiday rather than a one-off event. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania claims that an 1864 gathering of women to mourn the deaths of soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg makes it the founder of the holiday, while Carbondale, Illinois claims two markers in its cemeteries as well as a parade led by Major General John A. Logan (more on him in a moment) as proof that it held the first annual celebration. There’s even a Columbus, Georgia and Columbus, Mississippi with competing claims. While Waterloo,

Reverse side. Vaughn L. Hardacker. KIA France August 15, 1944

New York eventually won federal recognition because of evidence that its celebrations involved the full closure of the town, it has well over 20 rivals for the title, and all of them — even Waterloo — rely on evidence that is at least somewhat disputed. There’s only one event that unambiguously served as a forerunner to Memorial Day.

A few years back there was a popular C&W song entitled Some Gave All and it too has been cause for confusion. The widely used phrase “All gave some, Some gave all.” is mostly related to the members of the United States military who were wounded or killed in action. You will probably hear it more often around Memorial Day every year, and its not for the Veterans Day. A lot of Americans get this confused, and we’ll be honest — it can be a little annoying to all of the living veterans out there.

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle. Veterans Day honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace — dead or alive — although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.

The above pictures are used to illustrate my point. In the top photo I was a twenty-year-old Marine Corporal serving in Vietnam. The lower photos are of the purple heart medal awarded to my uncle, Vaughn L. Hardacker, a nineteen-year-old sergeant in the U. S. Army who was killed in action on August 15, 1944 (days short of his 20th birthday). I as a veteran, was willing to give . . . my uncle (and namesake) gave all (I possess this medal and every time I look at it I wonder how much more he should have given so that they could spell his last name correctly).

I have finally gotten to the point where I can accept someone saying, “Thank you for your service.” without becoming upset (a subject I dealt with in a blog a few years ago) and I make sure that I always remember that my uncle would have liked to be told that very thing … after all, he gave all. So always remember, it isn’t the politician who has given us the right to either like, or dislike the direction we perceive our nation taking. It was those who gave all that paid for our freedom. I for one was willing to put my life on the line so that we all have the freedom to believe what we want without being belittled and viewed as being of less intellect and of less worth by those who don’t like our politics or our religious beliefs–especially from those who were unwilling to put their lives on the line for freedom. I am speaking to all those people who have made a living as career politicians making large salaries (which most of them–regardless of party–do absolutely nothing to earn) and granting themselves benefits for life, not to mention protection from prosecution for doing things you or I would go to prison for–case in point if we lie to Congress we can be sent to prison. However, a congressman or woman, cannot be prosecuted for blatantly lying to Congress to push their own agenda. Remember, unlike many of our elected officials, our founding fathers were true public servants. The business of government was done during the winter because the rest of the year they had to remain at home to raise their crops and support their families. So, the next time you see a veteran, either successful in life, or standing beside the road holding a sign asking for help, remember. He or she was willing to give all.

The purpose of this rant is not to belittle or attack anyone, but more to make us think about how our veterans, both alive and those have passed on leaving their families emotionally and financially devastated must feel when they see the so-called dead-locked congress and are supposed to be happy when a politician passes a two or three percent pay increase while giving themselves a thirty percent or higher raise.



About Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn C. Hardacker has published seven novels and numerous short stories. He is a member of the New England Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, and the International Thriller writers. Three times he has been a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards Crime Fiction category, SNIPER in 2015, THE FISHERMAN in 2016, and WENDIGO for the 2018 award. The second installment of his Ed Traynor series, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER, was released in July 2019 and is available through all major booksellers. A signed copy can be ordered directly from Vaughn ( RIPPED OFF is his most recently published crime/thriller, it was released on January 25, 2023 by Encircle Publications. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Stockholm, Maine.
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8 Responses to Veteran’s Day versus Memorial Day

  1. kaitcarson says:

    Good morning, Vaughn. Thank you for wonderful and insightful blog. Your service was contemporaneous with both my husband’s (Marine’s) and my brother’s (Army). When I thank you for your service, it’s not idle words or political correctness that informs the statement. Rather, it’s based in an actual gratitude for what you did at the request of your nation regardless of your fear or feelings. It is also a recognition of the honor that so many Viet Nam vets were denied when they returned home from the service during those days of unrest. Thank you for serving when others fled. Thank you for the sacrifices for which you were denied recognition. And thank you for serving will full knowledge of the political climate you would return to. All veterans have gave this Country a blank check payable with their lives. Some had their checks cashed, others had them returned in part or full. All veteran’s deserve thanks for having that faith. Thank you.

  2. Judith Moore says:

    Thank you

  3. Julianne Spreng says:

    Vaughn, like you my husband was in Vietnam in 68 but was shipped home injured in 69. He never talked about his time there until just recently. Mostly, he didn’t expect to survive so had a real hard attitude toward everyone and everything while there. When he came home it took me decades to wear down that chip he carried around. He has nothing to do with anything remotely military and has never voted. He sees no point. On another note, my father, who served with his three brothers in WWII, spent the last years of his life trying to get veterans the recognition they deserve on Veterans Day. He believed that it should be a day only for veterans to be rewarded for their service by having a paid holiday. It galled him no end that politicians and federal workers who had never served got the day off, but he always had to work.

    • You husband should thank his lucky stars. My wife didn’t want to hear anything about it so for years I was like the old Everly Brothers song and Did My Crying In The Rain. I was working in Chicago when they had a remembrance day for Vietnam vets, parades and all. I attended none of them. Please keep in mind that what many people viewed as a chip on our shoulders was our way of avoiding the sneers and condescending looks we got. I heard a woman voice what it was like for our significant others dealt with: “My husband fought the war in Vietnam; I fight the war within him.” As a writer I always remembered that and even wrote a novel entitled The War Within (still unpublished as it dealt with Vietnam–which the publishing industry still tries to avoid publishing, my novel even won a literary awarrd but no publisher will touch it).

      I agree with your father. For years I always thought it was a shame that everyone but the veterans got Veterans Day off.

  4. Sandra Neily says:

    Oh My Vaughn, Thank you. Thank you. I am so sorry there was such loneliness, loss and grief for so many Viet vets. Since that time, I have always gone out of my way to thank and support. And remember all the missed opportunities when I was young and against the war. I sent packages to one active serving in Afghanistan a few years ago after I met his wife and very young son (whom he had not seen). Until he got home. Safely. He asked me how I could know just what to send and I realized I knew from all the times I’d sent socks, and hard candy, and fishing magazines and cookies and baby wipes … someone else very long ago. Thank you.

    • You are very welcome, Sandra. It took me a long time to realize that Yogi Berra could have been describing a Vietnam veteran when he described baseball by saying: Ninety percent of this game is fifty percent mental. I believe that every vet who was in combat should receive a Purple Heart … not all wounds are physical.

  5. Thank you all. After the reception (or lack thereof) we received when we came home, many of us went underground and we became very skeptical in fact when someone would ask us about Vietnam we either denied being there or we downplayed it. My former son-in-law’s father once said to me, “I didn’t go, but wished I had.” My first reaction was not to believe him and to jump down his throat so to speak. In stead, I bit my cheeks and said, “You didn’t miss anything.” Of itself, war is a terrible thing. I believe that the most terrible aspect of it is that the the doddering old fools who start them never go themselves and usually make sure that any of their offspring are exempted or given safe jobs far from the action. I sometimes wonder how those who gave all would feel if they knew about the current political situation. I’m certain none of them made the ultimate sacrifice for “My Party; right or wrong…” and the current climate of intolerance toward anyone who does not agree with your particular point of view. I was lucky to survive my war (or maybe unlucky to live to experience what our society has turned into).

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