Armed Forces

Army Day, Navy Day and Air Force Day were combined in 1949 to be Armed Forces Day, celebrated the third Saturday in May.

Army Day formerly was the date the US entered World War I. Navy Day was President Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. Air Force Day was the day the War Department established a division of aeronautics.

President Richard Nixon remarked on Armed Forces Day, May 19, 1973, at Norfolk Naval Base: “Men and women who wear the uniform of our country are supposed to salute the Commander in Chief … but on this day, I, as your Commander in Chief, salute you, each and every American who serves in our Army, our Navy, our Air Force, our Marine Corps, and our Coast Guard. Your courage, your steadfastness are the backbone of America’s influence for peace around the world. … We owe you … a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay … – to the more than 2 million men and women now serving in uniform; – to the millions of veterans who have returned to civilian life; – to those missing in action and those magnificent men who ‘roughed it out’ in enemy prison camps; and above all, – to the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. … We are thankful, too, for the strengths and the sacrifices of America’s military families. … We must reject the well-intentioned but misguided suggestions … to slash America’s defenses by billions of dollars.

“There could be no more certain formula for failure in the negotiations … no more dangerous invitation for other powers to break the peace. … Bluntly: A vote for a weak America is a vote against peace. A vote for a strong America is a vote for peace. … So, support those men and women who have the courage in the Congress to vote for a strong America. … The whole world today is watching to see whether the Star-Spangled Banner still waves. … Let us prove that it does. … Then we can look to the future with confidence that Armed Forces Day in the years to come will be … a day of peace for America and for all the people of the world.”

U.S. Army Chaplain Father William Thomas Cummings was among those captured during World War II by the Imperial Japanese at Bataan, Philippines. He died when the prisoner “hell ship” he was on was hit with a torpedo. Father Cummings had stated in a battlefield sermon: “There are no atheists in the foxholes.”

Chief of Naval Operation Admiral Vernon Clark, stated July 21, 2000 (AG News, July 28, 2000): “My hopes, my most sincere desire … for the future take the form of a prayer along the lines of Admiral Holderby. And that is that our Heavenly Father will grant me wisdom and courage and make clear the way ahead, so that when we are finished, we can say … that we did the right thing … that we served well.”

A member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Vernon Clark was quoted in the Pentecostal Evangel: “I have found plenty of opportunities to practice my belief in prayer. The Navy offers incredible challenge. When we get placed in positions of leadership we are responsible for mission accomplishment, for the manner in which our nation is represented, for the conduct of people who are assigned to our commands, and for outcomes, which can include matters of life and death. The Scriptures say, ‘We have not because we ask not.’ I have learned the wisdom of asking for wisdom, for guidance… and for help.”

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General Douglas MacArthur addressed the Massachusetts State Legislature in Boston, on July 25, 1951: “I find in existence a new and heretofore unknown and dangerous concept that the members of our Armed Forces owe primary allegiance and loyalty to those who temporarily exercise the authority of the executive branch of government, rather than to the country and its Constitution which they are sworn to defend. No proposition could be more dangerous. None could cast a greater doubt upon the integrity of the armed services. For its application would at once convert them from their traditional and constitutional role as the instrument for the defense of the Republic into something partaking of the nature of a praetorian guard, owing its allegiance to the political master of the hour…

“The armed services … are accountable as well to the Congress, charged with the policy-making responsibility, and to the people, ultimate repository of all national power. Yet so inordinate has been the application of the Executive power that members of the armed services have been subjected to the most arbitrary and ruthless treatment for daring to speak the truth in accordance with conviction and conscience.”

On Armed Forces Day, May 15, 1995, Secretary of Defense William Perry said: “In World War II, the United States Armed Forces helped defeat the forces of aggression and oppression on two sides of the globe. … In the Cold War, we faced down the global Soviet threat. Today, our forces stand guard, at home and abroad, against a range of potential threats. …”

Secretary Perry continued: “On Armed Forces Day, the nation says thank you to our men and women in uniform, their families, and the communities that support them. … Daniel Webster said, ‘God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it.'”

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