10 Ways to Celebrate Armed Forces Day (May 21, 2016)

10 Ways to Celebrate Armed Forces Day (May 21, 2016)


By Craig Gilman
Faculty Member at American Military University

Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May. Established by Harry Truman, this day recognizes the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, since they each have unique, proud histories and traditions. This year, Armed Forces Day is Saturday, May 21.

Take a moment or the day to remember, celebrate and learn. Looking for other ways to celebrate and teach others about this important day? Here are 10 ways to show your appreciation:

  1. Visit the Department of Defense’s webpage about Armed Forces Day. You can learn more about Armed Forces Day and download a free, full-color poster to proudly display in your home, in a storefront window or on a community bulletin board.
  1. Display the American flag at your home or workplace throughout Armed Forces Week. (Armed Forces Week starts on the second Saturday and ends on the third Sunday in May.)
  1. Attend an Armed Forces Day parade in your community.
  1. Send a care package to a servicemember away from home.
  1. Express your support of the military to your local government representatives.
  1. Visit a military base open house or air show, commonly held in the spring and summer.
  1. Host a barbecue or picnic for family, friends and neighbors and invite a veteran or servicemember.
  1. Most importantly, teach your children about the sacrifices, commitments and benefits of maintaining a strong, professional military community.
  1. Donate to a nonprofit organization supporting the health and well-being of military members, veterans or their families.
  1. Simply say “thank you” if you meet someone in uniform in your community.

Origins of Armed Forces Day

To understand the roots of Armed Forces Day, it is important to realize that in early U.S. history, there was great concern regarding the creation and maintenance of a standing army. Over time, Americans became more comfortable with a professional military and each of the different services established themselves as independent organizations. These services recognized the Commander in Chief as their leader, but they had little unity in regard to each other.

According to the DoD, Armed Forces Day website, Armed Forces Day was created to encourage unity among the services and to raise awareness and appreciation of the contributions and sacrifices servicemembers make. President Truman first led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to thank our military members.

“On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of these armed forces under the Department of Defense.”

Now is the time to think about and renew our support for the U.S. military and those who serve and sacrifice, so that we and future generations can maintain the freedoms and liberties that we hold dear. To all those who served, are serving, and are considering national service in uniform, we salute you. We also salute the families, friends, and communities who support our servicemembers.

About the Author 

Craig Gilman is currently an online faculty member and Senior Manager of Military and Community College Outreach Operations with American Military University, a member of the accredited American Public University System. Craig has an M.A. in International Studies and an M.S. in Education, both from Old Dominion University. He is a veteran who served in the Marine Corps. Prior to joining APUS, Craig taught secondary social studies in Virginian schools and Korea International School. He also taught English as a Foreign Language in Tokyo public schools. Craig often presents on the attributes of online education at local, state and national conferences.



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