I didn't pay much attention to Memorial Day in 1998, my first in the United States. I'd just been staffed on a US $600.0 million junk bond financing and was working like an animal. As November 11, 1998 approached, I expected to see veterans selling poppies, just like they did in Toronto. To my surprise there were no poppies. When I asked one of my friends about it, she shot me a blank stare. She'd never heard of people selling or wearing poppies to commemorate the November 11 Veterans Day holiday.
The lesson that I learned is that, in the United States, Memorial Day is the holiday reserved for honoring those who died in wars. Veterans Day, the November 11 holiday, honors all veterans, both dead and living. Memorial Day is the much more significant of the two holidays. In fact, in many workplaces, Veterans Day isn't even a "real" holiday. Everyone just reports to work as normal.
Until I did a little research for this post, it wasn't clear why the United States honored its war dead in May while Canada, the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth countries did so in November. The answer is that the United States started commemorating those who lost their lives in battle shortly after the Civil War. The Commonwealth countries only started to do so after World War I. For brief histories of Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Day and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day.
Be it in May or in November, those who died in the service of their country deserve to be honored. That's why this post has a serious tone to it. Back to inane stuff next time.