Remember to say thanks on Armed Forces Day

May 21, 2011

Sometimes it’s those little holidays, with ordinary sounding names, whose true meaning holds the most profound influence over our lives.

Saturday will be what has been designated as “Armed Forces Day.” In 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day to replace separate holidays celebrated by the different branches of the service. This single day celebration of the Army, Navy and Air Force would all fall under the Department of Defense. President Harry Truman signed the presidential proclamation into law May 20, 1950.

Today, we can attribute many changes that might have caused us to move on by the holiday without a thought to our men and women serving our nation. We no longer have an obligated service - the draft as it was referred to back then.

Years ago, you were mandated to don that uniform and put in your tour of duty. Most did this willingly, understanding the need to contribute their part in keeping this nation free and safe from enemies.

They embodied the quote by Elmer Davis, “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

During the years of the first and second world wars and even the Korean conflict, we all remember as children seeing those photos of a father, brother or uncle posed in his uniform with a stoic smile on his face. The pictures usually held a place of honor in the home, on the hall table or that polished piano. The color in the photos was highlighted with artificial hues so that those cheeks had a rosy blush and the eyes were a sky blue.

But then somehow we lost our way with the idea of being in the military. I don’t know if it was the unpopular Vietnam War, the massive protests, or the reality of any war brought into our living rooms during the evening news.

In any case, the ensuing silence at the end of this era, made the military passé. The military became an all volunteer option, one of which we looked upon with apathy. Technology paced us into a new phase. This wasn’t done on purpose or with any underlining motive. It’s just that the nation was literally on the move.

But waiting in the wings also was a new enemy. Below the surface a hatred grew and cultivated itself like a simmering geyser that some day would explode. It was the kind of act perpetrated on this sacred soil like we had never experienced before. And when it struck, we looked around in shock and horror. Our military did not seem so trivial at this time. Today we recognize the tremendous contribution our men and women put forth for you and me every minute of our waking day. We’ve come to our senses and support those who live on duty for us both here and in far away lands.

President Dwight Eisenhower said appropriately, “It is fitting and proper that we devote each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world.”

We as a country have made many mistakes. And no one advocates going to war and losing lives.

But you can be assured that we have devoted volunteer armed forces that deserves this day. On Saturday, Armed Forces Day, look for a way to say thanks. If you know someone who has been in the service, give them a nod. There is a lot of experience out there. I would urge you to listen because in today’s world there is no E-Z pass.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.