Armed Forces Day


On the third Saturday in May, Americans celebrate Armed Forces Day, which begins Armed Forces Week. This day honors those who have served in the armed forces of the United States.

Commemorations include exhibitions and displays, educational activities, events to raise support for troops overseas, parades, and other celebrations. Many memorials take place at military cemeteries and historical sites. The day honors those who have served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard and Reserve. The day also serves to promote the themes of patriotism, liberty, security, and thankfulness. Some citizens mark the holiday by visiting historical sites, such as battleships, military bases, or battlefields.

Historical Background

Before the establishment of Armed Forces Day, there were separate celebrations for each branch of the military. Louis Johnson, the Secretary of Defense, merged them into one holiday on August 31, 1949 in line with the branches coming together under the Department of Defense. The Marines continued their individual holiday celebration along with Armed Force Day. The first commemoration took place on May 20, 1950, but the holiday was actually not officially signed into a holiday until President John F. Kennedy established it in 1962.

Early celebrations focused on education on military jobs, how the military affects civilians, and showcasing of military equipment. These celebrations commonly included parades and air shows, which are still used to honor the holiday today. The oldest Armed Forces Day Parade takes place in Bremerton, Washington.

The United States Armed Forces

The President is the overall leader of the United States Armed Forces. Second on the chain of command is the Secretary of Defense. The Armed Forces have long been not only a defense system but also a source of patriotism and national identity.

The United States military ranks among the largest in the world. It is made up of paid volunteers, as drafting has not been used since 1972. The money spent on the military makes up around 43% of military expenditures in the entire world. The first official military unites were established for the Revolutionary War by the Second Continental Congress.

The branches of the United States military include:

  • The Army, who enlists over 500,000 active personnel. It is not only the largest but the oldest military branch. It is the main military force, as the army specializes in land defense.
  • The Navy, which contains 317,464 active personnel. This branch is in charge of naval warfare and defense of U.S. territories via sea. The U.S. has the largest Navy in the world, having a fleet that is larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world.
  • The Marine Corps, with 195,000 active personnel, is a component of the Navy and specializes in combined-arm tasks, which may include forces on land and sea. The marines develop high-level naval bases and often use ships to transport planes and ground unites to a hostile source, allowing for an airplane runway close to the site of interest.
  • The Air Force, with about 332, 854 active personnel. This branch is in charge of aerial warfare and other airborne military services. The Air Force began as part of the army but was established as a separate branch in 1947, making it the youngest American military branch.
  • The United States Coast Guard is unique in the way that it has a maritime law enforcement, which means that it holds its own jurisdiction in domestic and some foreign waters. The Coast Guard is a multi-mission service that

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