There are five of them, each with a rich history, each separate but unified in preparedness “both in war and in peace,” to quote President Harry Truman’s proclamation of the first Armed Forces Day on May 20, 1950.
What are they? The service branches of the United States Armed Forces, which are comprised of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard. And this Saturday, May 18—the second Saturday of Armed Forces Week 2013—is the day set aside by the U.S. government to honor their collective contribution to our national security and might.
The first Armed Forces Day celebration was held five years after the end of World War II and less than a year after the creation of Armed Forces Day was announced by then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. It came on the heels of the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, which guided the establishment of the modern U.S. military under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Defense, created in 1949.
As hoped, the inaugural celebration firmly cemented America’s resolve to support a large standing military. And it did not pass without plenty of parades, open houses, receptions, and air shows, according to a history of the event from the Department of Defense.
The streets of Washington D.C. were filled with 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets, and veterans marching past President Truman in celebration of their shared day, according to the DOD’s history. Celebrations in New York City, it states, were led by an estimated 33,000 people “under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types.”
All across America, people were christening the new holiday with their attendance and appreciation.
The celebration of Armed Forces Day has continued in the years since that first grand event, as observances planned nationwide this week have demonstrated. Every U.S. President since Truman has proclaimed its importance, as have other national and state leaders.
Among those leaders was former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, who commented on Armed Forces Day 1972 that “…Thanks to their (Armed Forces) determined spirit of patriotism and professionalism, our country has a powerful and unified defense team, employing its forces in the constant quest for peace and freedom.”
I hope that you will join me in celebrating this important day and the institution behind it—our U.S. Armed Forces. May this Armed Forces Day serve to remind each of us of the sacrifices that our military has made, and continues to make, as protectors of our security and peace.
Have a good week.