When it comes to honoring those whose service has, and continues to, defend our nation, its people and their Constitution, and our nation's interests, there are three distinct days set aside for three distinctly different groups of honorees. Two of them occur in May.
The first, this Saturday, is Armed Forces Day. Prior to the reorganization and establishment of a unified Department of Defense following the end of the Second World War, the people of the United States honored those currently serving in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps (the Air Force did not exist as a separate entity) on separate Federally recognized Service Days. In 1949, following the 1947 establishment of the Department of Defense (and the creation of the Air Force) Congress established one Day, Armed Forces Day, on which to honor all serving members of all of our military branches. The operative phrase the Colonel wants you to remember, for future reference in this missive, is "serving members."
The second, and to the Colonel's mind most important, opportunity in May to honor a distinct class of military men and women is Memorial Day. Formerly known as Decoration Day, and begun by the kind ladies of Columbus, Mississippi who placed flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers buried in Friendship Cemetery (the resting place of the mortal remains of many of the Colonel's forebears, as well), Memorial Day was established by yankee politicians and credited to some northern city's womenfolk whose grave decoration activities post-dated that of the belles of Columbus (pardon the Dixie defensive digression). Memorial Day's sole purpose, rooted firmly in the grave decoration activities of ladies on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line (if Dixie describes the south, should Masie describe the north?), is the honoring of those who died in all of the wars in which this nation has participated since its founding. The operative phrase the Colonel would have you recognize is "those who died." It is one of the Colonel's petest of peeves that well-meaning, yet none-the-less ignorant, folks insist on applauding all serving and veteran military men and women on Memorial Day. The memory of war dead is the ONLY reason to celebrate, as inappropriate as that word sounds, Memorial Day. The Colonel appreciates those who wish to honor serving military men and women--this Sunday, Armed Forces Day is the day to do that.
Finally, Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day are not the days set aside by our nation to salute those who have honorably served (yet, did not give the ultimate sacrifice in time of war) in the uniformed services of our great country. Veterans Day, (which subsumed Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I) in November, is the day for that.
This Sunday, Armed Forces Day, honor those currently serving.
On Memorial Day, honor those who died during our wars.
On Veterans Day, honor veterans who served.
Don't be a disrepectful boob and try to lump them all in together--give honor to whom each day is dedicated and none other. Each, but particularly our war dead, deserve that much at least.