May is officially Military Appreciation Month. Not only do we celebrate Memorial Day, there is also Military Spouse Appreciation Day which is celebrated the Friday before Mothers Day and Armed Forces Day which is celebrated on the third Saturday in May.
Originally, there were single day celebrations for the Army, Navy and Air Force; this changed in 1949, when Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day. The annual celebration now commemorates all branches of the military during one solitary day.
The first official Armed Forces Day took place on May 20, 1950, and was themed “Teamed for Defense.” In honor of the special day, B-36 Bombers flew over state capitals, a march was led by more than 10,000 veterans and troops in Washington, D.C., and over 33,000 people participated in a New York City parade.
Armed Forces Day was not only a way to honor those who serve or who have served in the military, but also a way to educate the public and showcase the equipment used to protect our country.
An excerpt taken from an article written in the New York Post on May 17, 1952, sums up Armed Forces Day’s importance, “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.”
In 1961, John F. Kennedy declared Armed Forces Day a national holiday.
“Our Servicemen and women are serving throughout the world as guardians of peace–many of them away from their homes, their friends and their families. They are visible evidence of our determination to meet any threat to the peace with measured strength and high resolve. They are also evidence of a harsh but inescapable truth–that the survival of freedom requires great cost and commitment, and great personal sacrifice.” –President John F. Kennedy, 1963