Dear American Legion Family members and friends,
The American Legion’s commitment to “preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars” is without question. It is explicitly stated in the Preamble to our organization’s constitution and recited by our members at every official American Legion meeting.
The third Saturday in May is set aside not just to honor those who served in war, but the men and women who comprise the greatest military on the planet. The first Armed Forces Day was announced on Aug. 31,1949, by American Legion Past National Commander Louis Johnson, who was serving as the secretary of defense at the time.
There are other days in which we honor our military. Memorial Day is when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Veterans Day is when we honor all veterans, regardless of where and when they served. Armed Forces Day marks what President Truman called “readiness for any eventuality.”
It is significant that Armed Forces Day was observed after the horrors of World War II and prior to our entry into Korea. It recognized that there are always dangers and sacrifices involved with military service and that America should always be appreciative of those defending our freedom in both war and peace.
Some members of the Armed Forces don’t really feel that Veterans Day is for them. I have to confess that when I was in the Navy, I thought of myself as more of a sailor than a veteran. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The American Legion believes that you are a veteran from the day you report to basic training. It is why you are eligible to join our organization from day one. It is also when you start following orders from your military superiors and delivering on your oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies.”
So while there is more than one day to acknowledge veterans, Armed Forces Day is the time to honor our military, whether members are on the battlefield or in bootcamp.
The American Legion has always recognized that a strong national defense is vital to the prevention of war. It is why the founders of The American Legion included defense as one of our organization’s four pillars.
Gen. Omar Bradley described the need for a strong military in 1951. “Real security,” he said, “lies in the prevention of war – and today that hope can come only through adequate preparedness.”
Simply put, you cannot have true security without an outstanding Armed Forces. In this capacity, the United States is truly blessed. Let’s remember that on May 20.
Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola