On May 15 more than 70 countries celebrate Armed Forces Day. The day honors the serving members of the military. In the U.S. we honor the members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and the Space Force.

In the United States, Armed Forces Day was established in August of 1949 and first celebrated on May 20, 1950, under President Truman. It was first labeled a national holiday by President Kennedy in 1962. It is celebrated on the third Saturday of May at the end of Armed Forces Week. 

In establishing the celebration, President Truman wished to convey the appreciation of the nation for the Armed Forces that protect our way of life and promote peace throughout the world and recognize our troops at home and across the sea. Celebrating Armed Forces Day was also designed as a morale boost for the troops.

The holiday was intended to replace the separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Days as all of the armed services fell under the newly formed Department of Defense. However, the respective services still celebrate and observe their separate day.

In a speech to commemorate the first celebration, Truman spoke about how the armed services had continued to make progress under the National Security Act and worked together toward “the goal of readiness for any eventuality.” 

Army Green Berets from the 5th SFG, wear throwback tiger-stripe uniforms from the Vietnam war during an exercise. (DVIDS)

Significance and Difference – Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day

However, Armed Forces Day shouldn’t be confused with Veterans Day. The former celebrates the men and women who are still serving in the Armed Forces, whereas Veterans Day pays tribute to veterans. 

On May 19, 2017, President Trump reaffirmed the holiday, marking the 70th anniversary since the creation of the Department of Defense and the holiday’s first celebration. 

Other than Armed Forces Day the Armed Forces and the National Guard Bureau are honored on the following days:

  • 29 March: Vietnam Veterans Day (All U.S. military branches)
  • Last Monday of May: Memorial Day
  • 14 June: Flag Day and Army Day (United States Army)
  • 4 August: Coast Guard Day (United States Coast Guard)
  • 18 September: Air Force Day (United States Air Force)
  • 13 October: U.S. Navy Birthday (United States Navy)
  • 27 October: Navy Day (United States Navy)
  • 10 November: Marine Corps Birthday (United States Marine Corps)
  • 11 November: Veterans Day
  • 13 December: National Guard Day (National Guard of the United States)
A Seahawk helicopter makes a bean bag drop on the amphibious ship USS Boxer during an exercise. (DVIDS)

In celebration of this year’s holiday, the White House released the following statement,

“The United States Armed Forces are the greatest fighting force in the history of the world. They defend universal values and advance the cause of freedom around the globe. On this day, we salute and show gratitude for all who serve and commit to ensuring our Armed Forces remain strong, united, and unmatched.”

President Joe Biden reiterated that and added, “I call upon all Americans to display the flag of the United States at their homes and businesses on Armed Forces Day, and I urge citizens to learn more about military service by attending and participating in the local observances of the day.”

The Department of Defense sent the following message via Twitter, 

If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting our Veteran Editorial by becoming a SOFREP subscriber. Click here to get 3 months of full ad-free access for only $1 $29.97.