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On Saturday, the U.S. will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day.
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Armed Forces Day was created in 1949 after the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were brought together under the Department of Defense, according to the department’s website.
According to the website, then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson created the holiday in order to replace branch-specific holidays like Army Day and Navy Day — and as a means of educating civilians about the Armed Forces.
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“It was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job is performed and the role of the military in civilian life,” the Department of Defense website said.
“It was a day for the military to show ‘state-of- the-art’ equipment to the civilian population they were protecting,” the website continued. “And it was a day to honor and acknowledge the people of the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Though the other three branches of the military complied with Johnson’s request to drop their specific holidays, the Marine Corps chose to keep Marine Corps Day — which is now on Nov. 10 — while also supporting Armed Forces Day, according to the Department of Defense.
Though it was created in 1949, the first celebration of Armed Forces Day was on May 20, 1950, as decided by then-President Harry S. Truman.
Here’s what else you need to know about the holiday.
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When is Armed Forces Day celebrated every year?
The holiday happens every third Saturday in May. This year, that fell on May 16.
What makes Armed Forces Day different from other military holidays?
Armed Forces Day is when Americans honor active-duty and former members of the military, according to the United Service Organizations (USO), an organization for active-duty service members and their families.
Meanwhile, Veterans Day (Nov. 11), focuses on celebrating military veterans, and Memorial Day (the last Monday of May) honors military members who died while serving the country.
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How was Armed Forces Day celebrated?
Every year, the holiday has a theme. In 1950, the theme was “Teamed for Defense,” according to the Department of Defense website.
That year, there were “parades, open houses, receptions and air shows,” according to the website. In Washington, D.C., 10,000 military troops marched past Truman.
What’s happening this year for Armed Forces Day?
On Friday, President Trump signed the 2020 Armed Forces Day Proclamation after the U.S. Space Force’s official flag was unveiled.
In the proclamation, Trump noted the creation of the Space Force and thanked all military members for their service to the country.
“Today, and every day, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the millions of American patriots who fill the ranks of our Armed Forces,” the proclamation said. “We are eternally grateful for every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, and member of the Space Force, and we deeply appreciate the sacrifices their families and loved ones make on our behalf. As one Nation, we pledge to always honor this service and this devotion given to our great country.”
The president also encouraged Americans to learn more about the military and “to display the flag of the United States at their homes and businesses on Armed Forces Day.”
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