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The Legal History of Armed Forces Day

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Saturday is Armed Forces Day, which celebrates all branches of America's military in one federally sainted day.

But it wasn't always that way. Here's a brief legal history of how Armed Forces Day came to be:

Separate Branches, Separate Days

Prior to Armed Forces Day being recognized, each branch of the military had its own day to celebrate: Army Day, Navy Day, Marine Corps Day, Air Force Day, and even Coast Guard Day. According to the Department of Defense, some of these days were observed for more than 100 years.

On the other hand, Air Force Day was only observed on three occasions before Armed Forces day was officially created.

1949: Armed Forces Day Announced

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day to replace the separate Army, Navy, and Air Force Days -- matching the unification of these branches under the then-newly created Department of Defense. (The DOD was formed August 10, 1949.)

The DOD notes that while the Marine Corps support Armed Forces Day, Marines worldwide continue to celebrate Marine Corps Day on November 10.

President Truman Proclaims 1st Armed Forces Day

As with many lesser-known federal holidays, Armed Forces Day began with a presidential proclamation. President Harry Truman proclaimed the first Armed Forces Day in February 1950 -- although the day wouldn't be observed until May 20, 1950.

President Truman called for the U.S. flag to be displayed and to recognize the "skill, gallantry, and uncompromising devotion" of our armed forces. Armed Forces Day also became one of the several days in which it is appropriate to fly the National League of Families POW/MIA flag.

This annual presidential proclamation of Armed Forces Day has continued for decades. In May 2013, President Barack Obama continued this tradition by proclaiming the third Saturday of May to be Armed Forces Day.

Congress Passes Resolution

If you're wondering whether the nation's lawmakers had anything to do with Armed Forces Day, wonder no longer. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2008, officially recognizing Armed Forces Day in appreciation of all our nation's servicemen and women.

So take a moment this Armed Forces Day to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of our service members and their families. To all the men and women who have bravely served our nation: We salute you.

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