Article Contributed by
May is National Military Appreciation Month in the United States, launched in 1999 through the efforts of Senator John McCain to honor the U.S. Armed Forces. Saturday, May 16 this year marks one of the most important celebrations of the month, Armed Forces Day.
The third Saturday of May is set aside each year for Armed Forces Day. Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May (May 9 this year) and ends on the third Sunday of May (the 17th). Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units may celebrate Armed Forces Day and Week over any period in May.
Armed Forces Day is an important day for Chautauqua County, home to nearly 12,000 veterans and hundreds more local citizens currently on active duty in the U.S. and around the world. The United States currently fields 1,400,000 frontline military personnel including around 200,000 women on active duty and an additional 1,100,000 active reservists.
An Honor Remembered
“My career in the United States Marine Corps made the best years of my life,” said local resident, Dan Kell, member and treasurer for the United Veterans Council of Jamestown. “We’re also trying to contact all active members of the military, no matter which branch of service they serve in, to follow up Armed Forces Day by marching in the Memorial Day Parade in Jamestown a couple of weeks from now.” Kell is joined in his appreciation for the United States military by United Veterans Council President Mike Russell.
“We think with mothers’ hearts,” said Susan Rowley, president of the local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers. “If I can do nothing more than support the parents of our soldiers and show them how much they are appreciated, I’ll feel like I’ve done my part.” Blue Star Mothers are those whose sons and daughters are now on active duty somewhere in the world. Gold Star Mothers are those whose sons and daughters have given their lives in service.
Active Duty Honors
Until Harry S. Truman’s Presidential Proclamation in February of 1950 creating Armed Forces Day, the nation celebrated separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single day of celebration reflected the post-war merger of the U.S. Armed Forces under the Department of Defense. The goal was for citizens to unite in offering heartfelt thanks to members of the military for their patriotic service and to honor the men and women currently serving, whether in their country or around the world.
In a speech announcing the creation of the day, President Truman praised “…the work of the military services at home and across the seas…it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace… [Armed Forces Day] is the first show of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.” The theme for the first Armed Forces Day in 1950 was “Teamed for Defense.”
Unfortunately, but predictably, as the Cold War was already heating up in the aftermath of WWII, the Soviet Union dubbed Armed Forces Day in the U.S. as a gross display of aggressive militarism designed only to intimidate the world into acknowledging American supremacy.
Forces on Display
The first Armed Forces Day in 1950 saw 10,000 troops from all branches of the military, cadets, and veterans salute the president in Washington D.C. In New York City, 33,000 participants kicked off Armed Forces Day along city streets under cover of 250 military aircraft flown by precision flying teams. Mothballed “battlewagons”, the battleships of World War II, the Missouri, the New Jersey, the North Carolina and the Iowa, opened their decks for public tours.
In 1962, twelve years after the first Armed Forces Day, President John F. Kennedy said, “Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.”
“We send Care Packages to active duty soldiers all around the world,” Blue Star Mothers president Susan Rowley explained. “We support all troops every day. We sent 480 packages at Christmas time last year, 108 for Easter this year and lots of chocolates and cards for Valentine’s Day. We will send more packages in June.” Local residents are invited to take part in sending necessities, special foods, books, games and more by contacting the Blue Star Mothers Facebook page, Blue Star Mothers Lake Erie NY4 or Rowley’s email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (716) 499-6897.
“We think of ourselves as Blue Star Families, too,” Rowley added. “Dads, siblings and grandparents are welcome as affiliate members and we appreciate their support.”
Local citizens without a soldier in their own family who would like to “adopt” a soldier or join an organization sending them goods and gifts can do so at www.anysoldier.com or learn more about it at http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Military-Care-Package.
Armed Forces Day was created to acknowledge our soldiers in peril, working in difficult conditions and making exceptional sacrifices, to let them know they are held in exceptional esteem. Citizens who are conscious of their debt and appreciation for them should use Armed Forces Day to make them aware of how much we think of them.
May 2015 – National Military Appreciation Month
May 1: USA Loyalty Day
May 3-9: Public Servants Recognition Week
May 8: Victory in Europe Day (VE Day)
May 8: Military Spouse Appreciation Day
May 16: Armed Forces Day
May 25: Memorial Day