Saturday, May 19, 2012

Honoring America's Military Family

Today is Armed Forces Day in the United States.  Many Americans are probably unaware of the day but since 1950 it has been celebrated on the third Saturday of May.  Today is a day to pay tribute to men and women who have volunteered to serve in our armed forces.

First a brief history lesson:  On August 31, 1949, Louis Johnson, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace the separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days that were recognized annually. The consolidation stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under one department – the Department of Defense. The Army, Navy and Air Force Leagues adopted the newly established day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for an individual Marine Corps Day but supported Armed Forces Day too.

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on Saturday, May 20, 1950. The theme for that day was “Teamed for Defense”, which expressed the unification of all military forces under one government department. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the day was designed to expand public understanding of what type of jobs were performed by the military and the role the military played in civilian life.  It was a day for the military to show off the capacity of the military to Americans who might otherwise be unaware of the strengths of the country's armed forces. It was also a day to honor and acknowledge Americans in the armed forces. Parades, open houses, receptions and air shows were held at the inaugural Armed Forces Day.  Armed Forces Day is still celebrated nationwide today and is part of Armed Forces Week, or as it is recognized in the U.S. Navy- Fleet Week.

And now some statistics:*  Just who makes up today's American all volunteer armed forces?  There are 1.46 million active duty service members and an additional 850,000 men and women in the Reserves.  14.4% of all active duty and 15.5% of the Reserves are women. Outpacing the general population, 37.7% of Officers have advanced degrees. Over half of active duty service members are married and 44.1% of this number have children under the age of 18.  Dual military marriages account for 6.7% of all military marriages and 5.4% of active duty military personnel are single parents.  All together there are 1.9 million active duty family members of which 1.25 million are military children under the age of 18. All total, that is a lot of people, both military and civilian, who are part of the American military family.

Being fancy with my favorite member of the Armed Forces
Today:  This past week Glenn (and I) recognized Armed Forces Day by hosting a reception.  Invited guests included American, Albanian, and NATO military members and their spouses currently working and living in Albania. In his speech, Glenn acknowledged the work and sacrifices that both military members and their family members make during long working hours and even longer deployments.  Regardless of our individual nationalities or political affiliations, those of us in the room all shared the common knowledge of what it is like to have a loved one deployed in harms way for months on end.  It isn't easy.

While Memorial Day recognizes those military heroes who lost their lives in battle and Veteran's Day recognizes those who are retired from the Armed Forces, today is a day to recognize those men and women are currently serving our country.  Please find a military member and thank them for their service.  And while you are doing that, thank their family as well.  Their spouses, partners, children, parents, brothers, and sisters are all doing their part as well.  Together we are all a part of the large military family.

*These statistics and many more are part the 2010 Profile of the Military Community study which includes tons of facts, charts, and graphs that data junkies like me find so fascinating.

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