Armed Forces Day is commemorated annually on the third Saturday of May in the United States. The day aims at honoring the men and women of the United States armed forces and also at raising the general public's awareness of the role that the military play in everyday life.
The day is part of Armed Forces Week. It begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May. It is not a federal holiday so businesses remain open.
Armed Forces Day History
Before Armed Forces Day was created, different branches of the military had their own separate day to commemorate their troops.
It was on August 31, 1949, that Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson declared that a new day would be added to the national calendar. It was meant to pay tribute to all the branches of the United States military - the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
This day was to be called Armed Forces Day. This happened after the creation of the Department of Defense, which unified all of the armed forces. While these military services celebrate Armed Forces Day, each department still observes its own separate day as well.
The first official Armed Forces Day took place on May 20, 1950. The day was marked by parades, air shows, and open houses where people could go and get acquainted with military equipment, jobs, and roles.
In 1961, President JFK officially declared Armed Forces Day a national holiday to be observed on the third Saturday of May.
Armed Forces Day Celebration
For Armed Forces Day people across the United States celebrate by throwing parades that feature air shows, military marching bands, and military vehicles, to display their support for the troops that give their lives to serve the country.
The military services will host open days, where the public can visit their bases and learn more about what the military does. Special educational events are aimed at the children, so they can learn more about the armed forces.
Every year there is a theme for the commemoration of Armed Forces Day. The first one, in 1950, was Teamed for Defense. Since then, themes have included Power for Peace, Freedom Through Unity Dedication, and Devotion.
July 26, 1947
Then President Harry S. Truman passed the National Security Act. It unified all the branches of the military (including the three military departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force) under the control of the Secretary of Defense.
August 31, 1949
Louis Johnson, Secretary of Defense, called for the creation of a joint Armed Forces Day to replace the days commemorated by each military branch separately.
February 27, 1950
Proclamation of the first Armed Forces Day.
May 20, 1950
This day marks the first celebration of Armed Forces Day in the United States.
March 18, 1961
Then President John F. Kennedy signed the Presidential Proclamation 3399 which made Armed Forces Day, the third Sunday in May, a national holiday.