With the war in Iraq and Afghanistan involving thousands of U.S. military personnel --- and despite more politicians wearing flag pins in lapels --- what amounts to this year’s least recognized long-running event was Saturday’s Armed Forces Day, notes Grumpy Editor.
This year’s observance, with few exceptions, was rather quiet in print and broadcast media over the weekend compared with a widely-promoted and over-covered event earlier this month --- Cinco de Mayo which commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Armed Forces Day goes back to May, 1950, one month before the start of the Korean War, when it was proclaimed by President Harry Truman. Replacing separate Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps days, the combined single-day observance on the third Saturday in May was established to honor men and women in uniform, serving in war and in peace.
At one time on Armed Forces Day, newspaper columns and television cameras heavily focused on military parades, open houses at military facilities, special demonstrations and Air Force flyovers.
Grumpy Editor finds some scattered, mostly local, Armed Forces Day observances (not widely covered) still exist. Among them:
Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, featured a fly-by, marking the 60th anniversary of the Berlin airlift, and an open house; Chicago honored the military at Navy Pier ceremonies, organized by the United Service Organization of Illinois; the 49th annual Armed Forces Day Parade in Torrance, Calif., attracted 86 entries; thousands made their way to Fort Jackson, S.C., to view exhibits, an air show and a concert, then cheer about 200 Army recruits headed for basic training; South Charleston, W. Va., continued its tradition of featuring a parade, its 49th; Greenville, S.C., which used to spotlight a downtown parade, this year featured military displays, and in Detroit, more than a dozen World War II veterans received special medallions at a ceremony in a senior living complex where some of the recipients live.
One of the few other Armed Forces Day parades was a major event at Osan Air Base --- in South Korea.
Interestingly, Great Britain is close to establishing its own Armed Forces Day that would be marked by parades with military bands and events organized by local authorities.
Sean Rayment, Daily Telegraph defense correspondent, wrote in Sunday’s editions that a government-commissioned study --- entitled “The National Recognition of the Armed Forces” --- will back The Telegraph’s campaign for a national day in support of British troops.
Rayment reported Gordon Brown, prime minister, ordered the report after Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, “suggested that the British public did not recognize the sacrifices being made by British troops on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times marked Armed Forces Day with a 21-paragraph story Saturday by Michelle York, plus photos, focusing on anti-war protesters marching to Fort Drum, 30 miles from the Canadian border in upstate New York.
That would have startled Harry Truman.