Honor the Troops: Memorial Day & Armed Forces Day

Article excerpt

May brings with it two important days that urge us to remember sacrifices soldiers have made to grant U.S. citizens liberty and justice. These holidays, Memorial Day (May 27, 2013) and Armed Forces Day (May 18, 2013) are the perfect opportunity to help students appreciate the men and women who have served the country in uniform.

The History of Armed Forces Day

Until 1949, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force each had a separate day of recognition. The U.S. Department of Defense united all these branches when it created the Armed Forces and on August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced they would be celebrated together on one day. The announcement was inspired by President Harry S. Truman's movement to encourage the nation's citizens to gather in thanks of military personnel for their service.

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on Saturday, May 20, 1950. Since then, it has been celebrated on the third Saturday in May. In 2013, Armed Services Day will be marked on May 18.

The History of Memorial Day (U.S.)

To many, Memorial Day--observed annually on the last Monday in May--marks the "unofficial" beginning of summer. However, originally called Declaration Day, Memorial Day began in the United States as a day to show remembrance of and gratitude for soldiers who have died while serving in the military. Many towns and cities across the country claim to have originated the holiday, yet in May 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. the official birthplace.

According to USMemorialDay.org, "Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 Mat 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic ... and was first observed on 30 May 1868." In 1873, New York became the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day.

Classroom Activities

Try one--or all!--of these fun activities to acquaint your students with the true meaning of Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day next month. …