October 27, 1858 brought the birth of 1 of the most influential military leaders of his era, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. As well as serving at the 26th President of the United States, Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and was central to its revolutionary growth. Today, the nation observes this day as U.S. Navy Day – to honor both Roosevelt’s efforts to strengthen the force and its members’ noble services.
Since the very first U.S. Navy Day in 1922, the movement has become much more than an opportunity to salute the largest and most powerful navy in the world. Today, we not only salute the current members of the U.S. Navy, but we also commemorate the brave men and women who served years ago, and their unique, ongoing hardships.
The Deep-Rooted History of Navy Day
Navy Day is not to be confused with the Navy’s Birthday, which is celebrated on October 13. The Navy’s birthday honors 13 October 1775, when the U.S. Navy was originally established as the Continental Navy, and is more of an internal activity for members.
By contrast, Navy Day is more widely celebrated by the public and gives national recognition to the naval service. Though this celebration was officially designated to Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May) in 1949, the Navy League continued to organize Navy Day activities as usual.
After centuries of working hard to protect our country and fight for our freedom, the Navy deserves our heartfelt thanks – and this of course includes the veterans who haven’t fought for decades. Some of these veterans still fight private, lifelong battles with illnesses developed from their days in the forces, all of them unjustified.
Asbestos and the U.S. Navy’s Deadly Decline
Many veterans – across all branches of the military – suffer devastating health problems. Even day-to-day challenges of naval service can expose members to diseases and conditions such as the Ebola virus, Ischemic heart disease, traumatic brain injury, and pneumonia, as well as ionizing radiation and toxic substances.
Once hailed for its durability and heat resistance, asbestos was widespread in ship construction before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed prohibitions on asbestos manufacture in the 1970s. Service members and shipbuilders were unaware of asbestos’s health risks, which were kept secret by asbestos-related companies. Asbestos fibers, when disturbed, can become airborne and breathed into Navy members’ lungs and form tumors. Eventually, after asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of the lungs, stomach, or heart, a lethal cancer now known as mesothelioma develops.
Mesothelioma symptoms can remain dormant for up to 50 years, which is why many veterans who served in World War II weren’t diagnosed until the 1990s. Veterans are among the nation’s most prone population to mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases. Today, 33 percent of the 3,200 new annual diagnoses of mesothelioma involve Navy exposures.
Veterans Need Your Support
Suffering an untimely death from unknown exposure to asbestos is the last thing veterans deserve after doing so much for our country. With that in mind, it’s important to thank these heroes for their sacrifice and spread as much awareness as possible; it’s the least we can do for their unwavering commitments to our country’s safety.
Navy Day isn’t a national holiday, so active forces, veterans, and their families celebrate in their own ways. But you don’t need to be directly involved with the Navy to show your appreciation. You can reach the naval community online, for example, by sharing your thanks (using the hashtag #NavyDay) on social media, whether in a written message or pictures wearing your favorite Navy t-shirt.
Some organizations also host local events for anyone in the community to participate in. Check local calendars in your area for any details.