Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day is a day celebrated on the third Saturday in May. The purpose of this holiday is to honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States, which include the Coast Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, and the Marine Corps, as well as members of the Department of Defense.

History of Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day was officially created on August 31, 1949, by the then U.S. Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson. Up until that time, each branch of the armed services had its own day. This unification of all the armed forces’ holidays reflected the fact that these departments were placed under the Department of Defense.

While all the branches still recognize their own individual holidays, they also all recognize Armed Forces Day. On May 20, 1950, the newly created Armed Forces Day was celebrated for the first time. Over the years, this holiday has not only been a day to acknowledge people who serve in the armed forces and thank them for their service, but it has also been a day when the armed forces have shown off their best military equipment to the American public.

In 1950, Armed Forces Day was celebrated with the theme “Teamed Up For Defense,” a nod to the fact that all the branches of the military had recently been placed under the banner of the Department of Defense. Since that initial celebration, Armed Forces Day has had a different theme each year. Some of the themes that have been used include: Appreciation of a Nation, Prepared to Meet the Challenge, and Freedom Through Unity.

Armed Forces Day Customs & Celebrations

Armed Forces Day is celebrated in a myriad of different ways across the United States. In some areas, there are military parades or armed forces-themed motorcycle rides. There are also many ceremonies, memorial services, and musical processions held all over the country. In other parts of the country, air shows featuring military jets and historic military planes can be seen.

Where is it celebrated?
United States (Observance)
When is it?
This year (2024)
May 18 Saturday
Next year (2025)
May 17 Saturday
Last year (2023)
May 20 Saturday