From the USO, by Andrew Lee
Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May, and it is the day Americans celebrate their military.
Armed Forces Day was created on August 31, 1949, by then-Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, to replace separate Army, Navy, and Air Force Days. The event stemmed from the Armed Forces’ unification under one Department of Defense by then-President Harry S. Truman when he signed the National Security Act into law on July 26, 1947.
While some may be tempted to point out that the U.S. Coast Guard does not technically fall under the Department of Defense when not at war, the National Security Act of 1947 was very specific about the term “Armed Forces” in the definitions section 606 paragraph eight, which reads, “The term ‘Armed Forces’ means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.” (It should now also include the Space Force.)
The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on May 20, 1950. The annual Army Day Parade held in Washington, D.C., during the first week of April was replaced by an Armed Forces Day Parade held during the third week of May.
- In 2021, 69% of the public had faith in the Armed Forces
- Roughly 18 million Americans or about 7 percent of the adult population were veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2018. Ranging from 18 to over 100 years old,
- Enlisted military members come from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, but some contribute more than others. In absolute terms, the top five for recruitment in 2018 were California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and New York, which is reflective of their relatively large populations.
- Women make up 16 percent of the enlisted forces and 19 percent of the officer corps.
- The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest employer in the U.S. There are more than 1.4 million active-duty personnel, 1.1 million National Guard and Reserve personnel and 700,000 civilians working for the DoD.
- 31 of the 44 presidents have served in the military. President Teddy Roosevelt earned the Medal of Honor, the highest honor in the military. The only enlisted President who didn’t become an officer was James Buchanan.
- The U.S. Military is one of the largest providers of international aid and disaster relief. Ships called Marine Expeditionary Units patrol the oceans watching for signs of danger and can reach the shoreline of nearly any location on Earth within 48 hours.
- The DoD owns nearly 30 million acres of land worldwide. In the U.S., it is the single largest consumer of energy.
- Only 28 percent of Americans ages 17-23 are eligible for military service. Nearly 1.4 million Americans, or .4 percent of the U.S. population, are active military personnel.
- Military members are more highly educated than the general population. Those who enlist are required to have a high school diploma or a GED. That means that 99 percent of the military has a high school education. On the other hand, only 60 percent of the general population has a high school education.
- The Lewis and Clark Expedition that mapped out the west would not have happened without the U.S. Army. We may remember them only as explorers, but the members of the expedition were actually a small Army unit.
- The U.S. military began to desegregate long before civilian institutions. Schools and other public institutions were ordered to desegregate in 1954, but many lagged behind into the 1980s. The Army, on the other hand, had the first desegregated troops during WWI.
- The first time women were allowed to enlist in a non-nursing role was during WWI. The first women in the military worked in clerical roles and as Signal Corps operators. This allowed more men to take on combat roles. In 1948, President Harry Truman signed an anti-discrimination bill. This attempted to put an end to racial discrimination in the military, but also discrimination against women joining the military. This bill allowed women to enlist in times of peace, rather than just wartime.