Armed Forces Day: Third Saturday in May
This Year’s Theme: "United For Freedom"

As I began thinking about this topic several months ago, I knew it would have more significance to me this year because of our son JB’s enlistment in the armed services. However, I must admit that I was surprised at the recent ironic turn of events. But before I get into a JB update, here’s information you can use about Armed Forces Day, May 18, 2002.


On August 31, 1949, then Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day. This single-day celebration, always the third Saturday in May, was a result of the unification of the Armed Forces under one department - the Department of Defense. President Harry Truman followed up with a proclamation on February 20, 1950. Praising the work of military services at home and abroad, President Truman’s proclamation reads, in part:

Now, therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim that Saturday, May 20, 1950, shall be known as Armed Forces Day; and I invite the Governors of the States, Territories, and possessions to issue proclamations calling for the celebration of that day in such manner as to honor the Armed Forces of the United States and the millions of veterans who have returned to civilian pursuits.

There are several reasons for Armed Forces Day:

  • to show the preparedness of our armed forces;
  • to educate civilians both in the types and duties of our armed forces;
  • to increase public understanding of the role of the military in a democratic society;
  • to showcase military equipment to the population they are protecting; and
  • to provide a day in which to honor and acknowledge the people serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.

It is often celebrated with parades and military exercises on land and on sea. Military installations are usually open to the public on Armed Forces Day (although 9/11 has changed that in many places).

Quotes to Share

It is fitting and proper that we devote one day each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world.

                                        President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953


We cannot, in this day of exploding world competition on all fronts, be content to maintain the status quo. We must also realize that the preservation of our freedom in the years ahead may require greater sacrifices from us than those made by Americans who have walked before us.
                                       General Nathan F. Twining, 1960
                                       Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff