Words by Bridget Foster.
As a civilian writing for a military blog, it came as a big surprise that there was a whole month dedicated to honoring our servicemen and women. Everyone knows about Memorial Day, the last Monday of the month when we are supposed to gather in our communities and honor the memory of those brave servicemembers who gave their lives in service to this country. While many Americans do just that, many more see it as a three day weekend, an extra day off work, a day to gather in the backyard or at a park for a cookout with friends and family, forgetting the true intent of the only federal holiday in May.
It is precisely for this reason that in 1999, Congress proclaimed May as National Military Appreciation Month, an opportunity for Americans to show genuine appreciation for the sacrifices of our military members – both past and present. Each year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation calling on all Americans to recognize the month through events and ceremonies. May is also Military History Month.
The month of May was chosen because it has the most days designated for recognizing the achievements of our military, which include Loyalty Day, which is today, May 1st. Loyalty Day began in 1921 as “Americanization Day” and was formally designated by Congress in 1958 to foster loyalty and love for our country. Loyalty Day is a day of observance that is celebrated with parades and ceremonies in communities across America. May 8th is VE (Victory in Europe) Day, which commemorates the end of World War II.
The third Saturday in May is celebrated as Armed Forces Day, which this year falls on May 17th. Stemming from the 1949 unification of the separate military branches under a single branch, the Department of Defense, Armed Forces Day is an educational opportunity for Americans to learn about the jobs performed by our military and the role of the military in civilian life. In many communities, the military holds open houses for the public to view historical and state-of-the art equipment as well as air shows. There are also parades, carnivals and other public celebrations across the country.
In 1984, the Friday before Mother’s Day was officially declared as Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which will fall on May 9th this year. Each year, the President issues a proclamation to acknowledge the support, sacrifices and contributions of military spouses and encouraging Americans to celebrate and recognize the military spouses in their communities.
There is an abundance of acts individual Americans and whole communities can do to show genuine appreciation and support for our veterans, servicemembers and their families, not just this month, but every day.
~Find out if there is a family with a deployed servicemember or veteran in your neighborhood and offer to mow the lawn, wash the car or plant a tree in honor of their servicemember.
~Hold a block party to celebrate the servicemembers in your community.
~Connect with your local VFW or other service organization and volunteer.
~Adopt-a-family and send them a care package or tickets for the children to the movies or an amusement park.