Happy Armed Forces Day! What’s that, you say? You certainly know that Memorial Day is the day we honor all those who died serving in the United States Armed Forces. And Veterans Day honors everyone who has served in the Armed Forces. But then we also have this one, Armed Forces Day, which honors our military members for their patriotic service to our country. If it all sounds a bit redundant and confusing it really isn’t if you think about it.
Just remember: Memorial Day honors the fallen. Veterans Day honors the vets. Armed Forces Day honors the ones who currently serve in the military. Of all three, the one least known and spoken of would be Armed Forces Day. So here is a bit of history on it.
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.
Each of the military leagues and orders was 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.
In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman “praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas” and said, “It is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.” In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman stated: “Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”
One of the purposes of Armed Forces Day, according to the official Defense Department website, was to increase the public understanding of the role of the military. “It was a type of educational program for civilians, one in which there would be an increased awareness of the Armed Forces. It was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job is performed and the role of the military in civilian life.”
It seems strange to me that the government thought it necessary to “educate” the public on the role of the U.S. military so soon (less than 5 years) after the end of World War II. One would assume all Americans at that time would not only be aware of what the Armed Forces did, but be damned proud of their military for winning the war against Hitler and Tojo in such a relatively short time.
At any rate, Armed Forces Day falls on the third Saturday of May each year, a good a time as any to say “thank you” to all those men and women in uniform who have volunteered to protect and serve all of us Americans. We are kept free and safe solely because of their commitment and patriotism. Thank God for them. Writing in a blog, combat veteran, Lt.Col. Robert B. Robeson said it best:
“Recently, Americans have been subjected to persistent political blather about “1%” of our citizens who, supposedly, “aren’t paying their ‘fair’ share of taxes” in relation to the other 99%. But I’m more concerned about a different 1% – actually about one-half of 1%. This involves current military personnel who provide the rest of America with its peace and freedom. Many of these 99-percenters haven’t a clue about what this 1% has endured on their behalf since our all-volunteer military became a reality.
“It appears that many of the protected have short memories when it comes to understanding and appreciating the intense and burdensome sacrifices of these warriors. Being a soldier requires taking personal responsibility for representing one’s country, protecting allies and comrades around you, while attempting to stay alive yourself.”
Besides going to parades and attending air shows, both of which are fine and a lot of fun, a good way of thanking our troops is to donate to worthy charities such as Operation Gratitude, Wounded Warriors Project, the USO, and Fisher House Foundation. There are also service specific charitable groups like Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, and Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society. And remember, care packages to our troops serving abroad are always welcomed.
Another way to say “thanks” is to pick up the check of a soldier, sailor, or marine you happen to see at a restaurant or bar. A small thing to do in terms of money, but what a good way to show your gratitude! And don’t forget to fly your flag on May 17th!