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Armed Forces Day is May 16th

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Armed Forces Day is May 16th

Armed Forces Day has been around since 1950. This year it falls on May 16th, the 3rd Saturday of May. Back in August of 1949, the Secretary of Defense announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day. This was to replace the separate branch-specific days they already had and to bring the services together.

“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”.- President Harry S. Truman

The first Armed Forces Day was on May 20th, 1950. The theme for that one was, “Teamed for Defense.” Each year has a theme with last year’s being, “For the Nation. For the People.” Some other themes over the years have been, “Liberty,” “Security,” and “Appreciation of a Nation.”

The purpose of Armed Forces Day is to help educate civilians of what the Armed Forces do and what type of job they perform, as well as the military’s role in civilian life.

On that first Armed Forces Day, it was celebrated with open houses, parades, receptions, and air shows, much like it can be today. However, in 2020, many of these parades and programs have unfortunately been canceled. There are however ways you can still honor service members on this day.

You can look for any online celebrations that might be taking place across the country. You can also make sure you are flying your American flag, thank those for their service, donate to a military organization, look for any volunteer opportunities, and if you own a business, offer a military discount during the month of May. All of that would be most appreciated by members of the military.

On March 18th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made Armed Forces Day an official holiday, however, it is not considered a federal holiday, and businesses should be open like normal on that day.

Here is a little bit about each branch of the US military that you can honor on Armed Forces Day:

  • The US Army- The Army is the main ground force and also the largest branch of the military. They were established by the Continental Congress in 1775. They also have the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard.
  • The US Air Force- The Air Force is the youngest branch before the Space Force. Before 1947, it was a separate corps of the Army. Then in 1947, they became their own branch. The Air Force defends the US in the air and in space.
  • The US Navy- The Navy was established by the Continental Congress in 1775. Their primary mission is to maintain and protect US interests at sea. They are supported by the Naval Reserves in times of need.
  • The US Marine Corps- The Marine Corps was officially established in 1775 by the Continental Congress to act as a landing force for the Navy. In 1798, congress established the Marine Corps as a separate service. They work on Navy ships, guard US embassies, and protect US interests around the world.
  • The US Coast Guard- The Coast Guard is the smallest of the branches, not including the Space Force. They were originally established as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. In 1915, they were reformed as the US Coast Guard under the Treasury Department, in 1967, they were transferred to the Department of Transportation, and in 2002, to the Department of Homeland Security. They work as law enforcement, with boating safety, sea rescues, and illegal immigration. The Preseident can transfer control of them to the Navy in times of conflict. They also have the Coast Guard Reserves and the Coast Guard Auxilary.
  • The US Space Force- The Space Force is the newest of the branches, having formed in 2019. They have been established within the Air Force. They will organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect US and allied interests in space and provide space capabilities to the joint force.

Armed Forces Day Discounts

Because of Armed Forces Day, you might be able to find some special military discounts. However, due to many sheltering-in-place, many of the discounts offered in years prior are unavailable or unannounced

Academy Sports

STATUS: Not yet announced for 2020

Academy Sports is a sporting goods store. They have typically offered military and first responders 10% off for a couple of weeks in May with both in-store and online purchases.

You will need to verify your military affiliation through ID.me for online purchases, or show your military ID when shopping in person. The discount is not valid on certain products.

This discount is for active duty, reserve members, the national guard, retired and discharged veterans as well as their spouses and children.


STATUS: Not yet announced for 2020

Sherwin-Williams is a paint store. They have offered 10% off to military and veterans during the month of May. You must be currently serving, be a reservist, or have served in the military, to include national guard or ROTC. You will need to show your military ID or be the spouse of someone who is currently serving, a reservist or someone who has served in the military. This offer is valid for those enrolled in their military discount program and good on personal purchases. This can also be combined with other sales and coupons.

Mission BBQ

Mission BBQ offers an Armed Forces week, where each branch can come in for a free sandwich depending on the day. On Saturday, Armed Forces Day, all members of the Armed Forces can get a free sandwich. Mission BBQ has stated that some restaurants in Florida, Indiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee have reopened.

Amusement Parks

In the past, many amusement parks have had a special military day or discount in the month of May. Unfortunately, since all amusement parks are probably closed at the moment, that won’t be happening. It is a good idea to remember for next year.

We also have many more discounts listed at MyMilitaryBenefits.




About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.