Our country recognizes two days formally set aside to honor those who have served as airmen, sailors, and soldiers, both of which originated under different names. What had been Decoration Day and Armistice Day, respectively, became Memorial Day in late May and Veterans Day on November 11. As the two days serve complementary, yet distinct, functions, it is important to distinguish the purposes both days serve in our national consciousness.
On Veterans Day, we honor our veterans; that is, each autumn, we express our appreciation to those who have served, and those who continue to serve, our country in uniform. This is designed to be an expression of gratitude to those veterans who remain with us.
Memorial Day serves a similar, yet more somber, function; today, we commemorate the sacrifice, and the loss, of those brave defenders of our land who are no longer with us. Simply stated, if a veteran isn't around to be told, "Thank you" face-to-face on November 11, that veteran is among those designed to be honored on the last Monday in May.
Today is that day, and, since those being memorialized on this holiday, by definition, are not around to be told personally what their service has meant to us, this comment thread seems as appropriate an avenue as any for sharing the stories, recollections, and tributes the men and women Memorial Day is designed to recognize have earned.