According to the Department of Defense, there are currently 1.4 million men and women on active duty with another 1.1 million serving in the National Guard and Reserve forces to go with more than 2 million military retirees and their family members receiving benefits. With the United States shifting from mandatory conscription to an all-volunteer military force in 1973, a large percentage of the civilian population has no interaction with active duty personnel, making the observation of this weekend’s Armed Forces Day all the more important. While the following weekend’s Memorial Day rightfully continues to be an important acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by the fallen in service of their country, Armed Forces Day is a chance to thank those who’ve taken up the call of duty from their fallen comrades.
When Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson made an August 31, 1949 announcement declaring the creation of an Armed Forces Day as a means of having a single-day celebration of the different branches of the armed services, it was an outgrowth of President Harry S. Truman’s efforts to establish a national holiday for citizens to come together and pay homage to military members and the patriotic service they give in support of the United States of America. While a minority of our population does the heaviest lifting in defending our shores and way of life, military families bear an equally onerous burden. They often endure psychological and emotional pressures that are often experienced in a vacuum caused by media outlets whose ratings are more driven by reality-show drivel versus the real world consequences of American foreign policy. So when Saturday, May 19 rolls around, be sure to reach out and thank any military personnel or veterans you may know. Or at the very least, carry a prayer and good thoughts for all those in harm’s way ensuring every other Americans’ ability to partake and enjoy our nation’s freedoms.