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Happy Armed Forces Day!

May 17, 2016
American Flags lined street

We celebrate this year’s Armed Forces Day on Saturday, May 21, 2016. Armed Forces Day is a cohesive day set aside to recognize all of our men and women who are serving in the United States’ Armed Forces. The day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May and is part of an annual Armed Forces Week beginning the second Saturday in May. Armed Forces Day didn’t become a national holiday until President John F. Kennedy declared it one in 1961. Americans around the country celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades, exhibits, and receptions honoring all those who serve.

As National Armed Forces Day is celebrated this weekend, we want to say "Happy Armed Forces Day" to all of you currently serving! We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your service.

History of Armed Forces Day

President Harry S. Truman originally spearheaded the movement for Armed Forces Day and Louis Johnson, the United States’ Secretary of Defense, officially announced it on Aug. 31,1949. The day was created after the unification of all military leagues under one department — the Department of Defense. Although, originally, there was a single day of celebration for each of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, Mr. Johnson requested each military league drop their separate service days to come together and honor everyone on the same day. Since then, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have adopted Armed Forces Day. Although the Marine Corps declined to drop support for Marine Corp Day, they still observe and support Armed Forces Day as well.

New York City hosted the first official Armed Forces Day on May 20, 1950, themed “Teamed for Defense” to signify the unification of all military forces under one department of the government. In honor of the first Armed Forces Day, B-36 Bombers flew over the state capital and a more than 10,000 troops and veterans marched in Washington, D.C. During President Truman’s proclamation on Feb. 27, 1950, he 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".

Keep in mind, the national day of celebration wasn’t just created to unify all branches of the military. It was also designed to expand public knowledge of the military and their duties. In addition, the day also played part in educating citizens on the role of military service in civilian life and to showcase equipment and weaponry used to protect the United States during times of war.

A small excerpt from the New York Times in 1952 summarizes the importance of the day and the appreciation we should all share as free Americans: “It is our most earnest hope that those who are in positions of peril, that those who have made exceptional sacrifices, yes, and those who are afflicted with plain drudgery and boredom, may somehow know that we hold them in exceptional esteem. Perhaps if we are a little more conscious of our debt of honored affection they may be a little more aware of how much we think of them.”

How to Celebrate

Ready to celebrate our freedom fighters? Since it’s not a federal holiday, many military museums and exhibits are open for viewing on this day. You can also acknowledge the day by wearing red, white, or blue; or in a more personal way, you can choose to donate to a military fund or send a care package to someone serving overseas. Let’s not forget the sacrifices they make — thank a soldier today, tomorrow, or any day for your freedom.

Chelsea Stephens

About the Author

Chelsea Stephens is the Marketing & Training Lead for Digital Services Georgia. A Georgia native herself, Chelsea enjoys writing on topics that citizens and visitors of Georgia can enjoy and learn from. 

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