Each year, the third Saturday of May marks Armed Forces Day, which is part of Military Appreciation Month. The month-long celebration of our military is capped off by Memorial Day on May 31.
Armed Forces Day is a holiday that’s intended to honor American servicemen and women across all branches of the U.S. military. The holiday was established in 1949, during President Truman’s first term in office.
Then-U.S. Defense Secretary Louis Johnson announced the holiday as a way to celebrate the efforts and contributions from all branches of the U.S. military.
Discussing Armed Forces Day during a 1950 presidential address, President Truman said:
“Armed Forces Day marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, toward the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”
A decade later, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy established Armed Forces Day as an official national holiday. Fifty-five years later, in 2017, President Donald Trump reaffirmed the holiday by releasing a statement from the White House supporting the holiday’s 70-year history.
These days, Armed Forces Day is celebrated in towns and cities across the United States with military air shows, parades, and educational exhibits for children, among other activities.
Recognizing the U.S. Armed Forces for Their Sacrifices
It’s tough to quantify just how much members of the U.S. military have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so that civilians all around the country can keep the freedoms they enjoy.
Indeed a great many of the men and women in our armed forces endure hardships and suffer — all in an effort to protect the American liberty and democracy we hold dear.
During Military Appreciation Month, it’s important to remember and honor our active duty personnel, as well as to support veterans, and those who have given their lives to protect the American way of life. It should go without saying, but military service can take a heavy toll on soldiers — physically and mentally.
Both during and after their time in the military, soldiers can experience a number of physical and mental challenges that are unique to their service.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the most common health issues that soldiers face include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Chronic pain
- Substance abuse disorder
- Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation
- Exposure to hazardous substances
Many of the above maladies are intertwined. For example, a soldier may have been physically injured during their service and now experiences chronic pain. As a result, they may be driven to substance abuse. Likewise, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicide are all interrelated.
Though it is not as commonly discussed, soldiers are also among the likeliest groups to be exposed to hazardous substances, from toxic chemicals to arsenic and asbestos.
Indeed, mesothelioma, which develops from exposure to asbestos, is a disease developed by many veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, veterans account for nearly 33% of all new mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States.
This is why it is so vital to demonstrate our support for our troops on a day like Armed Forces Day and throughout the whole month of May.
How to Participate in National Armed Forces Day
There are many different ways to get involved on National Armed Forces Day and to show your support during Military Appreciation Month.
This year, consider any of the following actions:
- Go to a parade: Perhaps nothing embodies collective support better than civilians going to a parade and celebrating exuberantly with signs, cheers, and kind words. Such a simple action can demonstrate to past and present military personnel just how much we care and appreciate their sacrifices.
- Visit and honor a public military display/installation: Each state in America has its own statues, monuments, parks, and installations that remember and honor our nation’s soldiers. Consider looking up some military displays near you and paying a visit to both learn more and offer your respects.
- Attend a military memorial or cemetery: Even though Memorial Day is a widely recognized annual holiday meant for paying your respects to fallen members of the U.S. military, the same could be said about Armed Forces Day. Take the opportunity to visit the cemeteries or memorial services local to your area.
In addition to the above, there are many other ways to demonstrate your support of the U.S. military and the individual soldiers who make it up. Whatever you choose to do, be sure it is done with respect, honor, and dignity, the qualities by which members of the U.S. Armed Forces live.
Our servicemen and women — both past and present — deserve to get back as much as they put in. By showing our support, soldiers know that their sacrifices are never made in vain.