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Thursday, May 17, 2018


The third Saturday in May is designated Armed Forces Day. For 2018 the date is set for May 19. The purpose is to honor men and women who have served the United States in the military. Unlike Veterans Day, this day is also designated to educate the public on various roles of the military and how each service plays a role in keeping America safe.

Unlike other Presidential cabinet positions, the armed forces and the defense of the nation is explicitly addressed in the US Constitution Article I, Section 8.

Armed Forces Day was created by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson on August 31, 1949. Up through World War II the United States depended on the War Department and the Secretary of War to meet defense needs. However, following World War II the Cold War presented new and serious challenges. The need for a national defense strategy in the nuclear age generated intense interservice rivalry between services each competing for men, money, and material in their annual budgets. This competition further hindered development of a coherent national strategy.

As the Cold War intensified President Harry S. Truman and Congress approved legislation creating the National Security Act of 1947. The Act produced the National Military Establishment comprised of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the U.S. Air Force. In 1949 the National Security Act was amended to re-designate the National Military Establishment as the Department of Defense headed by a civilian appointed as Secretary of Defense.

With the military now under one centralized department it made sense to honor all services on a single day. Thus, the advent of Armed Forces Day celebrated for the first time on May 20, 1950.

There are different ways the public may participate in the observance of Armed Forces Day.

            -- Attend a military air show. The local media is a good way to find out what is scheduled in the community. Various military public affairs offices maintain regular contact with the media.

            -- Check the US Department of Defense Armed Forces Day web page to determine ceremonies and celebrations in local areas and regions. Many military installations will hold an open house for the public to celebrate Armed Forces Day.

            -- Parades are a big part of Armed Forces Day celebrations. Recommendation: Arrive early to get a good spot. And, be sure to bring a camera.

            -- With a little effort but more commitment and display of appreciation an individual or family could put together and send a care package. Even “Thank You” cards are a welcome gesture. The local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or Red Cross can suggest units, locations, and addresses.

            -- A patriotic touch would be to simply fly the American flag. A word of advice. When the American flag is flown, do so correctly showing respect for the flag, the country, and the US Armed Forces. The best way to learn is to consult the United States Flag Code.

All the military services should expect a well-deserved salute from the public whom they protect. They merit a heartfelt thanks from a grateful nation. And, may we never take for granted the volunteers who serve.


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).



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