Celebrating Armed Forces Day
One thing it seems every American loves is celebrations, and the men and women who serve in the United States armed forces are definitely worth celebrating.
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson created a day to celebrate all branches of the United States armed forces. Before the Department of Defense was created, there were few connections between the different branches of the military, and each branch celebrated its own military day. Although those separate days are still celebrated by each branch, the armed forces became more united when the Department of Defense was created, and President Harry Truman wanted a day to celebrate that unity. The third Saturday of every May is set apart as Armed Forces Day to celebrate the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces.
The Beginning of Traditions
On May 20, 1950, the U.S. celebrated the first Armed Forces Day. Each Armed Forces Day has a theme, and the first was “Teamed for Defense.” The theme was decided on because the 1950 celebration was the first day that the armed forces would celebrate as one unified entity, and they wanted the theme to reflect that all the armed forces truly would team together for the protection of our country.
The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated all over the country in a lot of different ways. B-36 Bombers flew over all 50 state capitals, and there were parades, open houses, and parties held nationwide. Some of the more notable celebrations included a march in Washington, D.C. attended by 10,000 active-duty members and veterans and a parade in New York with over 35,000 participants. There was also a big parade in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is the longest running Armed Forces Day event in the nation. This year will be the 67th anniversary of the parade.
Armed Forces Day Theme “Guardians of Freedom”
The Armed Forces Day events planned for celebrations this year aren’t that different from the events planned for the first Armed Forces Day. In addition to the Chattanooga parade, open houses and air shows take place all over the country to celebrate the brave men and women that serve our country every day. The Armed Forces Day festivities this year are scheduled for May 21, and the theme is “Guardians of Freedom” to celebrate the selfless service members of the military offer in order to protect the freedoms we enjoy in this country.
A Month-Long Celebration
May is National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM), and Armed Forces Day is only one of many special events held during the month to celebrate the United States military.
- Loyalty Day, which is always held on May 1, kicks off the NMAM.
- Public Service Recognition Week is held during the first week of May to celebrate not only the men and women in the armed forces, but also those citizens who serve the United States in the government.
- Military Spouse Appreciation Day is held on the Friday before Mother’s Day to honor the spouses of those men and women serving in the armed forces.
- Victory in Europe Day, also called VE Day, is held on May 8 to commemorate the same day in 1945 that Germany surrendered, signaling the end of World War II.
- The final celebration during National Military Appreciation Month is Memorial Day, traditionally held on the last Monday of the month. This is a day to honor men and women who died during military service.
Although Armed Forces Day has been celebrated since 1950, May did not become National Military Appreciation Month until 1999 when it was introduced by Senator John McCain.