A new survey conducted by the University of Phoenix shows 55% of Americans do not know the true meaning of Memorial Day. So, as we sail through the Memorial Day weekend, it's important to know exactly what and why we're observing.

Even though both Memorial Day and Veterans Day honor the contributions of our veterans, there are some crucial differences between the two. Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday of May, and Veterans Day, falls annually on November 11th. If you're puzzled by the significance of each, you're not alone. The confusion has caused the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to delineate the differences on its official government website. Here's a simple rundown of facts and features:

MEMORIAL DAY 

  • A somber day to honor those who died while serving the U.S.
  • First observed as Decoration Day following the Civil War
  • The use of flowers and/or wreaths often honor the deceased
  • 21-gun salutes at military installations

VETERANS DAY 

  • For giving thanks to living veterans for protecting our freedoms
  • Originally named Armistice Day to observe the end of World War I
  • Veterans Day does NOT feature an apostrophe in its spelling

There are dozens of annual Memorial Day services and observances in Central New York and in specific Mohawk Valley communities. One big event is the New Hartford Memorial Day Parade. The 2019 edition begins at 7:00 PM Monday, May 27, at the New Hartford Shopping Center and concludes with an open house at the New Hartford Volunteer Fire Department on Oxford Road.