Celebrated on the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day salutes all of our men and women in military service. Whether Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, or Coast Guard, our active and reserve service personnel are an important part of the United States.
While the United States, as with many new countries, began in war, our national Army, Navy, and Marines were officially formalized in 1775, the year before the Declaration of Independence was signed. From the very beginning, the Armed Forces played an important role in the history of the country. However, while this was the start of the military branches, we have not always had permanent military personnel. Wariness of a standing army caused the Founders initially to only employ military men during times of need, and rely on local militias when possible. Still, as time passed, it became increasingly more obvious that a standing national military was needed to protect the fledgling country. By the turn of the century, the ancestor of our modern military branches was established. As the armed forces matured and technology advanced, the Air Force was created as a separate branch in 1947, and with it, the National Guard evolved into its current format.
Historically, each branch had its own department, and had its own holiday, but in 1949, all branches were put under the administration of the Department of Defense. A joint holiday was created to emphasize our unified military and the first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on May 20, 1950. While the combined holiday was created in part to embody this reorganization, it also served to increase public awareness of the Armed Forces. With the goal to expand public understanding of the interdependence of military personnel and civilians, it serves to remind the general population that our servicemen and women are one of the ways we help preserve our country.
A New York Times article from May 17, 1952 stated: "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."
Our military is a visible reminder of our ability to protect our country and population. Let it also be a reminder to take a look around you, and remember that the military is not a faceless entity, but rather the son or daughter, neighbor or friend who chose to be ready to fight so others don't have to. In a very real sense, our military personnel take their responsibility of citizenship one large step further. Regardless of your branch, rank, or duties, we salute you, our Armed Forces.