SAN JOSE: Since September 11, 2001, Americans have been reminded again and again that the world is a very dangerous place. We learned on that day, that on any given day, even the United States can be a very dangerous place. But the world would most likely be even more chaotic and more deadly if the U.S. military was not on an assignment. Armed Forces Appreciation Day, the third Saturday of May, was designated by President Harry Truman to recognize and give thanks to our military.
Our Armed Forces keep the chaotic and destructive forces of the world in check.
As America exists in a world where enemies of the American way of life abound, the very least Americans should do is internalize an attitude of gratitude. In the turbulent world of the twenty-first century, Americans are more likely to realize that the U.S. military exists to keep citizens protected from the imminent danger from the nation’s foreign enemies. Essentially, it is the cost of enjoying relative freedom in a turbulent world.
Years after the American War for Independence, someone was quoted as saying that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Especially in the world today, freedom must be guarded by those who keep the vigil. As one considers this, the most vigilant of the vigil keepers are America’s men and women in uniform.
Ultimately, any number of keepers may be called upon to offer the greatest of all sacrifices for the sake of others. Or to preserve the higher American ideals and value that is placed upon genuine freedom. U.S. forces have been called to action, again and again, to help the free world fight against tyranny.
An oath to serve and protect
To protect America’s fragile freedoms, the men and women offer an oath to serve and protect the Constitution and the nation. When they do so, knowing full well they may be called upon to offer their lives, they are trusted to put the country first. And when they are able to succeed in such a mission, it is only fitting and proper that the country thank them.
This is the sentiment that President Harry Truman had in mind when he instituted Armed Forces Appreciation Day.
Not long after World War II, Harry Truman, wanted a reorganized military for the protection of America and the preservation of America’s values, and to be capable and ready to defend the nation, or to defend the friends of freedom when needed. Truman wanted Armed Forces Day as one holiday that would consolidate the holidays supporting the four separate branches of the military into one.
Armed Forces Day
On August 31, 1949, the Secretary of State of the Truman Administration announced the establishment of a joint Armed Forces Day to replace the tradition of honoring separately the men and women in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
Armed Forces Day was established during Truman’s administration after he led an effort to consolidate into one single holiday, all the holidays that had been previously established to support the four separate branches of the military.
Truman’s vision was to create a more unified department of national defense.
Truman envisioned a dual purpose for such a holiday of eliminating the contentious inter-departmental rivalry among the three military branches and eliminating duplication of effort and wasteful government spending practices. And, when May 20th rolled around the following year, the initial Armed Forces Day was celebrated. The theme on that Saturday was the concept “Teamed for Defense.”
It was consistent with Truman’s vision and consistent with the efforts Truman had initiated as a U.S. Senator.
President Truman: A concerned leader
While in the Senate as the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, Truman earned a valued reputation as a leader concerned about waste and corruption. Approximately a year prior to the U.S. declaration of war on the Japanese Imperial government, Truman’s investigations into the waste and widespread profiteering of military contractors led to the establishment of a special committee to conduct a more thorough investigation of abuses.
Reportedly, the Truman Committee saved the taxpayers around $15 billion, and the senator from Missouri became a national figure during this time.
National Security Act of 1947
When President Truman challenged Congress after the war about a more efficient and effective military, the serious deliberations of both houses resulted in the sweeping initiatives of the National Security Act of 1947. This legislation brought four major branches of the military initially under the National Military Establishment.
The act also reorganized the Army Air Corps into the new branch of the U.S. Air Force and created the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council among other security-based organizations. Eventually, with a 1949 amendment to the National Security Act, the NME is renamed the Department of Defense.
Thank you for your service
On May 20, 1950, the new Department of Defense explained that Armed Forces Appreciation Day was intended to help the people better understand the function and role of the military in American society, but the essential intent was to recognize and appreciate the military and to provide a means for the public to thank men and women in uniform for their service.
Ironically, while the “Democratic” Party leadership refused to accept Harry Truman’s actions of desegregating the U.S. military, regular Americans would be reconsidering the value of their military in 1950. On June 25, 1950, the newly reorganized American military would be mustered for action when Kim Il-Sung’s North Korean Communist government invaded South Korea, starting the Korean War.
By August of that year, U.S. troops poured into South Korea under the United Nations’ auspices. President Truman had determined to help the South Korean government resist the attempted takeover from the Northern Communist regime.
Pausing to appreciate our military
Although Armed Forces Appreciation Day is not one that would ever top the lists of U.S. holidays, it deserves to be remembered.
Today in the United States the appreciation of the service of the men and women in uniform is not as charged politically as it has been from the days of the Vietnam War. A majority of U.S. citizens are beginning to realize that Armed Forces Day is a legitimate American holiday, and will actually harbor a sense of gratitude for the “vigil keepers.”