Armed Forces Day? What's the difference between that and Veterans Day, or Memorial Day?
Armed Forces Day was created following World War II and first celebrated in May of 1950, as a day of military appreciation, for Americans to support our troops.
Scheduled for the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day replaced separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days (which are still recognized within the services). The single-day celebration followed the unification of the Armed Forces under one new department -- the Department of Defense.
President Harry Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for Americans to show their thanks to our military members for their patriotic service in defense of our country.
Armed Forces Day was established as a type of "educational program for civilians," to create an increased awareness of the Armed Forces. It was designed to expand public understanding of what types of jobs are performed, and the role of the military in civilian life. It was also a day for the military to show "state-of-the-art" equipment to the civilian population they were protecting. And most importantly, it was a day to honor and acknowledge the people of the Armed Forces of the United States.
The New York Times reported on May 17, 1952: "This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won't be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty."
On that day, American troops were in battle in Korea. Today, American troops are still in Korea in peacekeeping and advisory roles, and American troops are engaged in battle in The War on Terror in Afghanistan. The statement from the New York Times is unfortunately still true -- some of our men and women in uniform may give their lives in defense of our freedom on this Armed Forces Day. It is our duty and our privilege as Americans to show our gratitude on this day of military appreciation.
After the Greatest Generation saved the world and changed the course of history in World War II, Americans revered our military members for the heroes they were, and honored the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.
However, the unpopularity of the conflict in Vietnam led to the Peacenik movement of the 1960's, which resulted in a radical shift in attitude towards American service members in this country. For the first time in our nation's history, American GI's were spit upon in American cities, and regularly met with shouts of "Baby Killer."
Since the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11, and American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans have made it a point to focus on military appreciation, with regular reminders to support our troops. We think that is due in large part to the efforts of Vietnam veterans who have sworn "never again will American troops be treated the way we were." And we pray they're right.
The men and women serving in our armed forces, and their families, make sacrifices on a daily basis to ensure our freedom to live the lives we choose. This truly is the Land of the Free because of the Brave.
We're happy to see at least some of our teachers teaching military appreciation in our schools. These third grade students are singing a song of thanks written by their teacher:
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