Nations around the world honor their military forces with an Armed Forces Day. In the United States, the celebration is held the third Saturday in May.
Not to be confused with Veterans Day or Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day was first conceived by President Harry S. Truman in 1949, the same year all branches of the service were unified under the Department of Defense. The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated in 1950 with parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. It was made an official holiday by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
The day is part of a monthlong celebration of America’s military members. Other national observances include:
• May 1, Loyalty Day – The reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States.
• May 5-11 (first full week in May), Public Service Recognition Week – Honors the men and women who serve the nation as federal, state and local government employees.
• May 8, Victory in Europe Day – Marks the end of World War II in Europe.
• May 10 (Friday before Mother’s Day), Military Spouse Appreciation Day – Honors military spouses and the important role military families play in keeping the country safe and service members strong.
• May 11-18 (second through third Saturday of May) Armed Forces Week – Typically celebrated the week leading up to Armed Forces Day. Honors past and present service members.
• May 27, Memorial Day – Commemorates the men and women who died while in military service.