Armed Forces Day 2024 (US): Fascinating History, Themes, Facts and FAQs

Armed Forces Day, established in 1949, honors the United States Armed Forces, celebrating their unification under the Department of Defense, and is celebrated on May 18.

Armed Forces Day 2024: Armed Forces Day is a special holiday for people all over the world to come together and thank the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. President Harry S. Truman came up with the idea first, and it became a holiday in 1949. The creation of a single-day celebration for all five branches of the United States military made sense due to its recent unification under the Department of Defense. Today, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of every May, this year falling on May 18. Be sure to mark your calendar & support our military!

Armed Forces Day: History

Over two centuries have passed in the US military. From fighting for independence against Great Britain between 1775 and 1783 to the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865, World War II, and becoming a world powerhouse at the close of the 20th century, the US quickly rose to dominance. U.S. military branches include the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

In 1775, the Continental Congress created the US Army with General George Washington’s Continental Army, Navy, and Marines. This new military organization fought the British in the American Revolutionary War with French soldiers, winning freedom in Paris. The 1789 Constitution made the president military commander in chief, authorizing him to legislate, tax, and wage war.

The Army has focused on land wars and military takeovers since its establishment. Army Corps of Engineers manages most US inland rivers. After fighting the British Army, the U.S. Army was small and at peace. The Air Force’s separation from the Army Air Forces changed this in the 1940s. War Department control of the Army passed to the Defense Department in 1947.

The US Army fought in the 1790s Indian Wars, the War of 1812, the Civil War in 1861, the Spanish-American War in 1898, World Wars I and II in 1917 and 1941, the Korean War in 1950, and the Vietnam War in 1965. The US engaged in Afghanistan in the 1991 Gulf War.

In 2019, DHS will authorize the Department of Defense and Coast Guard to lead the US Armed Forces.

While the President is commander in chief, the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff control combat operations.

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Armed Forces Day 2024: FAQs

What day is National Armed Forces Day?

National Armed Forces Day is every year on the third Saturday in May, falling on May 15, 2021.

What are the seven branches of the U.S. military?

The Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard make up the armed forces of the United States. The Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are reserve components of their services and operate, in part, under state authority.

What is the difference between Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day?

Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Armed Forces Day honors those who are currently serving in the U.S. military.

Armed Forces Day: Themes

Some themes that were used for Armed Forces Day in the past included:

  • Appreciation of a Nation
  • Dedication and Devotion
  • Freedom Through Unity
  • Liberty
  • Patriotism
  • Power for Peace
  • Prepared to Meet the Challenge
  • Security
  • Special Opportunity for Thanks
  • Teamed for Defense

These are only a few examples, and not a full list, of the Armed Forces Day themes in previous years.

Armed Forces Day 2024: Activities

Go to a parade

National Armed Forces Day is traditionally celebrated with parades honoring military service. Open houses, air shows, and other local celebrations usually accompany a parade. There are numerous local parades across the United States; there is sure to be one near you!

Visit a public military display

Military or government personnel will routinely set up historical or educational displays for the public. Visiting a showcase like this can be eye-opening as well as fun. This also allows civilians to interact with military personnel face-to-face.

Visit a military memorial or cemetery

There are often special ceremonies at military memorials or cemeteries on National Armed Forces Day. Buglers perform the memorial song “Taps” in honor of fallen soldiers. This is a great way to show respect and appreciation for members of the military.

Five Facts about Military Uniforms

The army changed from green to blue

Current army troops wear blue instead of green as a tribute to George Washington and the men in his first command.

The Marine Corps wanted their uniforms to be unique

The Marine Corps went to the extent of including the letters “USMC” when designing their uniforms so that other branches wouldn’t be able to use their design.

Stripes on Navy uniforms were a fashion choice

It turns out there’s no significance to the three pin-stripes on the Navy jumper other than the fact that a majority of the men were decorating their collars with various types of white stripes, so it became part of the uniform.

Sailors wear bell-bottoms for a reason

The wide-bottomed pants that sailors famously wear are constructed that way so that they can easily be folded up when performing duties that involve them getting their feet wet.

The flag patch is backward on purpose

The American flag patch on military uniforms has the stars on the right and stripes on the left to give the effect that it’s blowing in the breeze.

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Armed Forces Day: Importance

The armed forces deserve our respect

Joining the US Armed Forces is an incredibly selfless act that deserves recognition. Soldiers and other military personnel risk their lives every day to keep citizens safe. This holiday is an opportunity for the average person to show support for that sacrifice.

It helps spread awareness and understanding

National Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to educate yourself or others. The holiday was originally designed to help citizens better understand the military and its role in our society. We can all do our part by spreading knowledge and understanding.

It is for all five branches of the military

There are five branches in the military: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. All five branches are welcome to participate in this holiday. Originally, it was intended to replace separate branch appreciation holidays, but they are still celebrated today as well.

Armed Forces Day: Dates

2024May 18Saturday
2025May 17Saturday

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