Remember the fightin’ words of the U.S. military?
There’s the sea-faring “Anchors Aweigh!” and high-flying “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder” for the Navy and Air Force. Marines sing proud about the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli. For other vocal soldiers of distinction, the Army keeps rolling along.
People might not remember the day that honors all branches of the military. It’s today — Armed Forces Day is always observed on the third Saturday of May.
“I would say it’s probably not as recognized as much as we recognize Memorial Day, Veterans Day, the Fourth of July, those times we tend to recognize our veterans,” said David Reel, executive director and chief curator of the West Point Museum, the museum of the United States Military Academy.
But there are still things people can do.
Armed Forces Day was created during the late summer of 1949, says the Department of Defense. The single-day celebration was designed to replace the separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force recognition days. All branches of the service had been unified under one department — the Department of Defense.
While the Marines support the new initiative, the corps has also decided to keep its own service day, which is Nov. 10.
The first Armed Forces Day was held on Saturday, May 20, 1950. In Schenectady, an evening parade began at 7 p.m. Ten divisions were on the ground and planes from the Air National Guard were in the air. Military hardware on display included two giant searchlights and a mobile anti-aircraft gun.
The day remained big throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. In 1956, the Navy’s USS Corsair submarine docked at the Port of Albany; big crowds showed up at the Voorheesville and Schenectady military supply depots.
But support has faded. There are no longer any local events planned for Armed Forces Day. At West Point, Reel said, May is a time for class reunions and preparation for graduation. “Armed Forces Day kind of kicks off graduation week for us,” he said.
Reel said people can participate in Armed Forces Day by doing small things.
“We would recommend that on Armed Forces Day, people remember their veterans of all the military branches and recommend they visit a local military museum if possible,” Reel said. “They are spread around the country.”
Tim Rizzuto, executive director of the USS Slater — a former destroyer escort that is now a floating museum at the Port of Albany — would welcome the extra visitors. If people want to honor active servicemen and women, Rizzuto said, a trip to the Slater can give civilians insight into life on deck.
“You get a sense of what conditions these guys are living under on active duty,” Rizzuto said. “It’s a much rougher environment than it is in your living room.”
Col. Richard Goldenberg, public affairs officer for the New York National Guard, knows that Memorial Day overshadows Armed Forces Day. But it’s nice for men and women now active in the military to have a day in which they are honored.
“As someone who wears the uniform, especially over the last decade or more of armed conflict, I’ve sensed a much greater of awareness of men and women who wear the uniform — not just in the month of May but year-round, whether it’s the sales of poppies by local veterans organizations or as people take time over their Memorial Day weekend to reflect momentarily,” Goldenberg said.
He added that people can fly their flags. They can visit veterans in local hospitals. They can remember that May 16 is Armed Forces Day.
“It’s a day of pride in all the services,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.
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