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Learn More About Armed Forces Day

Learn More About Armed Forces Day

Armed forces day illustration

Last Updated January 12, 2021

Armed Forces Day celebrates the brave individuals currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is observed on the third Saturday in May and is one of several holidays that are part of National Military Appreciation Month.

Each year, Armed Forces Day centers on a unique theme designed to highlight the hard work and dedication of our servicemembers. Many events take place in cities across the country to honor those who serve. Activities often include parades, military service displays open to the public, educational exhibits to teach children about the armed forces, motorcycle rides and more. Taps is often played at these events as a way to show respect for those who died for their country.

Armed Forces Day Themes

The first Armed Forces Day was held on May 20, 1950 and given the “Teamed for Defense” theme. It was selected as a way to show that all branches of the military had been united under one department of the government.

This inaugural observance was celebrated with parades, receptions, open houses and air shows. Approximately 10,000 American troops marched past the president in Washington D.C., while 33,000 people in New York City commemorated with an air show that included 250 military planes. Famous World War II warships were in harbors across the country for the public to see, and precision flying teams filled the skies. The American people came together across the country to honor members of the Armed Forces.

Since then, other themes of Armed Forces Day have included:

  • Appreciation of a Nation
  • Freedom Through Unity
  • Liberty
  • Dedication and Devotion
  • Power for Peace
  • Honor Those Who Answered the Call to Serve

Military Facts for Armed Forces Day

  • On July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act, which united all four branches of the military under one department of the government.
  • In 1947, the National Military Establishment was created as a result of the National Security Act.
  • The Department of Defense replaced the National Military Establishment in 1949.
  • On the inaugural Armed Forces Day, B-36 bombers flew over every U.S. state capital.
  • On March 18, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued Proclamation 3399, making Armed Forces Day an official national holiday.
  • The American flag is traditionally flown on Armed Forces Day. People also frequently wear patriotic colored clothing to commemorate the occasion.
  • Sea, air and land military exercises are held on Armed Forces Day to recognize servicemembers and display their state-of-the-art equipment.

Sharing these Armed Forces Day facts is a small way for Villanova University to highlight the achievements of the members of our military. We would like to extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all of the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our country every day.