On Saturday, May 20, America will celebrate Armed Forces Day.
It is commemorated annually, on the third Saturday of each May, to express gratitude for all men and women serving in America’s armed forces.
Armed Forces Day is also a part of Armed Forces Week, which begins each year on the second Saturday of May.
Armed Forces Day History
As detailed on the U.S. Department of Defense Armed Forces Day website, Armed Forces Day was created on Aug. 31, 1949.
The purpose of this new day was to integrate previous separate Army, Navy, and Air Force Days and to combine these with honoring all who serve, including the Marines and Coast Guard.
This single day commemoration reflects the unity of all serving in our armed forces under the Department of Defense.
Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, understood clearly the critical importance of America’s armed forces. His assuming the office of the presidency after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the waning months of World War II served as his lesson.
In a speech honoring the formation of Armed Forces Day, President Truman “praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas.”
Truman also stated that our armed forces are “vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.”
In his Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Truman articulated the principles of collaboration, readiness, and preparedness, by stating the following:
“Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense”.
Just a few years later in 1953, another president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, honored Armed Forces Day by stating the following:
“Today let us, as Americans, honor the American fighting man. For it is he—the soldier, the sailor, the Airman, the Marine—who has fought to preserve freedom. It is his valor that has given renewed hope to the free world that by working together in discipline and faith our ideals of freedom will always prevail.”
America, and all governments of the world are obligated to work for peace and avoid war.
However, we need our armed forces since the dangers of war persist and we cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, especially when all efforts of peaceful negotiation have failed.
The wisdom of Winston Churchill in his speech before the House of Commons on May 31, 1935, is applicable to “a corridor of deepening and darkening danger” taking place in the world today.
“It would be folly for us to act as if we were swimming in a halcyon sea, as if nothing but balmy breezes and calm weather were to be expected and everything were working in the most agreeable fashion. By all means follow your lines of hope and your paths of peace, but do not close your eyes to the fact that we are entering a corridor of deepening and darkening danger, and that we shall have to move along it for many months and possibly for years to come … It is not only the supreme question of self-preservation that is involved in the realization of these dangers, but also the human and the world cause of the preservation of free Governments and of Western civilization against the ever-advancing forces of authority and despotism.”
Just War Doctrine
As America commemorates Armed Forces Day, a moment to reflect on the strict conditions for legitimate defense of military force deserves consideration.
America’s military has a treasured legacy as the ethical protectors of freedom, democracy, and moral decency. This honorable legacy is also applicable to our defense of innocent, law-abiding people of many nations.
As “deepening and darkening dangers” ignite, the gravity of a decision to use military force must always respect ethical principles. These are commonly understood as the Just War Doctrine.
These principles involve the following:
- The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- All other means of stopping the aggressor must be impractical or ineffective;
- There must be serious probability of success through the military action;
- The use of military action must not produce destructive consequences and disorders greater than the aggression to be terminated. The capabilities of modern warfare, which can be catastrophic, if not cataclysmic, must be weighed heavily in determining the condition for using them.
America must eternally honor all who protect us through military service.
These patriots are the ethical protectors of the security and freedom of America, and people of good will throughout the world.
When they fulfill their duty, they provide legitimate defense, a sacrosanct duty of their mission.
In the garden of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, is a powerful sculpture titled, “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares” by Yevgeny Vuchetich.
The sculpture depicts these words from the Book of Isaiah:
“they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
As a gathering storm continues with division among nations, may nations heed these words and pray for peace.
Yet, let us always remember the sacred right we have to defend ourselves, and all people of moral decency.
May we be forever grateful for our Armed Forces, and may their sacrifices throughout the world serve the path of peace.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen to Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.