Throughout the year, America dedicates particular days to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. Navy. One of the oldest celebrations is Navy Day. Today, we honor the current members of the U.S. Navy as well as veterans who now face ongoing hardships like mesothelioma.
What Is Navy Day?
Navy Day was observed for the first time in 1922, when the Navy League designated October 27 as a special day to pay tribute to the sacrifices and accomplishments of the American fleet.
The date was chosen because it was the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt who had championed the Navy throughout his long career.
Over the years, Navy Day became known as a day for the American civilians to observe the Navy in action and reflect on its role in the country’s safety.
After centuries of working hard to protect our country and fight for our freedoms, Navy service members deserve our heartfelt thanks — especially as some Navy veterans still fight private battles with illnesses developed from their days in the forces.
This includes Navy veterans with mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Celebrating the Navy and Honoring All Veterans
Navy Day is the second important holiday that honors the Navy this month, as the U.S. Navy Birthday is observed every year on October 13. In 2020, the Navy celebrated its 245th birthday.
That holiday was declared in 1972 by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt. He picked the day to mark the establishment of the Continental Navy in 1775.
The Navy is also recognized during other veterans holidays, such as:
- Armed Forces Day: Third Saturday in May each year. Honors the men and women currently serving in all branches of the military.
- Memorial Day: Last Monday in May each year. Honors those who lost their lives in service to their country.
- Veterans Day: November 11 of each year. Marks Armistice Day, which ended World War I, and honors all military veterans who served their country.
While all Navy service members and veterans put their lives on the line to protect America, one of the greatest risks they faced has nothing to do with warzones or violence in the traditional sense.
Each year, veterans of the Navy develop mesothelioma and other cancers as a result of exposure to asbestos.
Navy Veterans, Asbestos, and Mesothelioma
Before the military was aware of the serious health risks posed by asbestos, all branches made use of the toxic mineral.
Asbestos was cheap, lightweight, durable, fire-retardant, and easy to incorporate into a variety of products. Because of this, asbestos was used extensively in ships, vehicles, aircraft, and the construction of military bases.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who officially recognized the Navy’s Birthday, died from mesothelioma. Likely, he had been exposed during his service as many Navy vessels had literal tons of asbestos inside of them.
The reality is that many veterans, especially members of the Navy, are at much higher risk of developing mesothelioma for the same reasons. Around 1,000 of the 3,000 mesothelioma cases diagnosed each year involve Navy or shipyard exposure.
Support Veterans With Mesothelioma on Navy Day
The tragic truth is that the danger of asbestos persists long after the fighting is over.
Because mesothelioma takes 20-50 years to develop after exposure to asbestos, many veterans are still getting sick today though the military stopped using the substance more than 40 years ago.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set aside resources for veterans with mesothelioma, which can make a huge difference for those who have been affected.
On Navy Day, be sure to thank those you know who have dedicated their lives in service to the country and all it stands for.