Armed Forces Day 2002
While the men and women serving our nation through the armed forces should always be in our thoughts, this takes on special importance on May 18th, which is Armed Forces Day. The day is annually observed on the third Saturday of May, and Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May, ending on the third Sunday of the month. This, like Memorial Day at the end of the month, is a time to thank our armed services for the job they do day in and day out.
Armed Forces Day traces its roots back more than half a century to 1949. That is when Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, under the Truman Administration, designated the day as one recognizing the fine work of our service men and women. The day was originally established to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days and the single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department – the Department of Defense.
In a speech announcing the day’s formation, President Truman praised “the work of the military services at home and across the seas,” and said, “it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.”
At one time, the day aimed to be a type of educational program for citizens. Given current events, however, these days people know more than ever of the fine work done by the Defense Department. But now, perhaps more than ever, is also an especially important time to acknowledge the military’s contributions.
Our brave men and women are fighting right now to protect the values and freedoms that we as Americans value. In a practical sense, Congress is acting to bolster our nation’s security -- both here and abroad – through the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (H.R. 4546). In the early hours of Friday morning, May 10th, at about 2:00 a.m., the House of Representatives passed this legislation by a vote of 359 to 58.
The act clearly expresses the nation’s support for our military personnel; establishing pay raises for many of our service men and women. It also improves benefits for military retirees, reduces out-of-pocket expenses for military personnel, and improves funding for family housing complexes.
Another key element of the authorization is the strength to continue to safeguard our homeland. That includes funding far-reaching programs designed to thwart terrorism on United States soil, and boosting Ballistic Missile Defense funding by $7.8 billion.
Thirdly, the authorization act provides the tools needed to effectively prepare for war. This means more than just increasing military manpower. It means improving the technology our men and women use on the front lines. More than $56 billion is set aside for this purpose.
These are important efforts that are fundamental for the United States to remain safe -- and Americans to remain secure, both at home and abroad. To do that, our armed forces must remain the world’s premier force. This authorization legislation will help them stay that way.
Financial and moral support are essential to keeping our armed forces at their peak level. It is my hope, however, that our appreciation for these men and women, and all that they do, will not be limited by the calendar. They should be in our thoughts and prayers all year long.