Following the terrific job the Navy SEALs did earlier this month in ridding the world of Osama bin Laden, could there be a better reason to celebrate our military than with this year’s Armed Forces Day? Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May. This year that would be May 21. Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May, the day after Armed Forces Day. Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units will sometimes celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in May.
Armed Forces Day is the perfect time to show our troops how grateful we are for their protection, vigilance and sacrifices in helping to keep all of us Americans safe and free. Not as well known as Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day was set up on August 31, 1949, to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days which had already been established at various times throughout the year.
The single-day celebration was done in conjunction with the unification of the Armed Forces under one department — the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders were asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too. Ooo-Rah!
In addition to getting the word out on the unification of all the military forces under a single department of the government, the first Armed Forces Day was a way of educating the public on new state of the art equipment and techniques being introduced into the military as well as using it as a day to honor the people serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.
According to the Department of Defense official web site, the first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. In Washington D.C., 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets and veterans marched past the President and his party. In New York City, an estimated 33,000 participants initiated Armed Forces Day “under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types.” In the harbors across the country were the famed mothballed “battlewagons” of World War II, the Missouri, the New Jersey, the North Carolina and the Iowa, all open for public inspection. Precision flying teams filled the skies as tracking radar was exhibited on the ground. All across the country, the American people joined together to honor the Armed Forces.
Throughout the years our presidents and other of our leaders have given speeches in tribute to our brave military on Armed Forces Day. In 1962, President Kennedy said, “…Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.” He also went on to say, “Only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”
In 1972, Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird said, “”At home and abroad, military men and women are showing purpose and dedication in defending American ideas. They are performing in our country’s best traditions under circumstances both difficult and complex. Thanks to their determined spirit of patriotism and professionalism, our country has a powerful and unified defense team, employing its forces in the constant quest for peace and freedom.”
To find out what events are being planned in your area for this year, check out local military bases — many of them do an Armed Forces Day open house. Watch the skies! Some air force bases will be doing fly-overs. Some communities have parades and organized picnics. Some communities celebrate with family events that go on all week. I know for example that Harrisburg, PA is having its 10th annual Armed Forces Day celebration which they promote as “An exciting event-filled day of FREE activities for the whole family!” They really go all out.
Locally Torrance is having its 52nd Annual Armed Forces Day Celebration from May 20 through May 22 which will include a free concert by The United States Army Band and a parade. And if you’re a motorcycle type then the place to be is Hollywood Boulevard on Saturday for MCA’s Hollywood Parade/Ride to the Ranch which goes from Hollywood, through Beverly Hills and up to Malibu. Everyone is welcome and it’s free. It’s all for charity too, supporting Wounded Soldiers.
And lastly, don’t forget to proudly fly your flag on this day. And if you’re lucky enough to run across any of America’s heroes in person, go right up and shake their hand and thank them, and maybe give them a hug too.