The celebration of Armed Forces Day was made official by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and since then, it has become a valuable opportunity to celebrate the people that protect America. The day is associated with air shows, crowded museums and concerts to many people, but there are more easy-going ways to celebrate the holiday. While the event itself and the traditions associated involve respect for the importance of the Armed Forces, enjoying the holiday and giving it the proper respect to the greatest extent is still possible in a stress-free way. This can be ideal for those who are busy or have kids to look after, and it makes the holiday more accessible to all those who want to show their gratitude to the people who risk their lives for America. Here are some ideas that can make the day one to remember.
Dress the Part
There is usually beautiful weather on Armed Forces Day, which means that getting out and about is a good idea. While you’re out, there is no easier way to get involved with the holiday than by displaying your patriotism with some red, white and blue clothing, or even just a flag pin on your lapel.
Send a Care Package
If you know a service member stationed away from home, spending the day preparing a care package box of useful and comforting foods and products is a great way to get a feeling for the daily life of a soldier and brighten up their tour of duty. And if you don’t know any service members personally, you can always consult the many sites online that provide details of how to send care packages to soldiers you don’t know.What may surprise you when researching the content on these sites is that the most important part of a care package from the soldier’s perspective is not the contents in the box, but the letter that comes with it. This is especially the case if it has input from children showing appreciation for the service member’s work that can really make the package special.
Talk to a Service Member or Veteran in your Area
Most of those who have served have led interesting lives in defense of America. Many veterans especially would probably enjoy discussing some of the fonder memories of their time in the Armed Forces. Asking a veteran over for coffee and asking about what the day means for them will give you a sense of the significance of the event, while also displaying your gratitude.
Signal your Gratitude to Service Members You See on the Street
If you see someone wearing a uniform on the street or at the store, a simple “thanks for your service” is more appropriate on Armed Forces Day than any other.
Educate your Family About the Significance of the Armed Forces
With everything that takes place on Armed Forces Day with all the fanfare and decoration, kids will be very curious about the day. A storybook, a DVD or even just a good discussion on the origins of the day and some light history of the role of the military in America will help keep kids interested and informed of the holiday and others like it.
Help a Military Spouse
If you know someone whose significant other is on deployment, offering to lend a hand is one of the most beneficial and useful things you can do on Armed Forces Day. Running a house solo can be challenging, so if you have any skills that can be useful, then asking a military spouse if they could use help with any maintenance, cooking or errands is one of the most helpful and patriotic things to do.
Fly the Flag
It goes without saying that the symbolism of the American flag is intrinsically intertwined with the essence of Armed Forces Day, so proudly flying the flag outside your home is great, if you can. While there are some protocols and guidelines for how to handle the flag and how to show it proper respect, these are mainly common sense. So, add to the patriotic atmosphere in your neighborhood by flying the stars and stripes.
While the major memorials are often busy on Armed Forces Day, they are still well worth visiting for the fanfare alone. And if you’re looking for something to visit that would be a bit more low-key on the day, then check out some of the smaller monuments in your area that will offer a relaxed setting for taking in the significance of the day. From Buono Beach in New York to the War Dog Memorial in Pennsylvania, there are more monuments around the country than you might expect. Have a look for one near you that suits your priorities for the day.
Deepen your Knowledge of all Branches of the Military
While the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force get most of the headlines, the Coast Guard has an interesting history, and has taken part in every major U.S. military action in the past 100 years. Even if you’re well-read on your military history, there’s a good chance you are missing out on some valuable information about one of the military’s lesser-known branches. There are some great books and movies on the subject.A Coast Guard ship fired the first naval shots of the Civil War, and some of the most daring operations in American history have been carried out by this branch. Their unofficial motto, "You have to go out, but you don't have to come back," is a testament to the fearlessness of the U.S. Armed Forces as a whole.
One of the easiest ways to get into the spirit of the day is to donate to military charities, displaying your dedication to the cause and helping to improve the lives of people who have taken great risks to protect America. The U.S. Armed Forces have brought stability and liberty to many regions of the world that have the poorest populations, creating positive economic conditions for growth in those countries. So, it is only fitting that when back at home, the proper support structures are in place to make their lives easier, if they are facing challenging times.
Visit a Military Base
Armed Forces Day is a popular day for bases to open their doors to the public to allow an insight into the daily lives of soldiers and officers. There are hundreds of military bases across America, and one in your area might be welcoming visitors.
See a Parade
This will be the real attraction for many on Armed Forces Day, especially for kids. Some of the most high-profile parades, like that of Chattanooga, Tennessee, are a huge production, attracting big crowds and lots of fanfare. However, many towns and cities will have more low-key and intimate parades. In good weather, it’s the perfect way to spend the day.
And since the weather is usually good for Armed Forces Day, it makes a great occasion to kick off grilling season with a bang. Nothing is more American than a cookout, followed up with some apple pie. This also presents a great opportunity to invite local veterans and service members over to show your solidarity with a good feast!
Aside from flying the flag, the more color in the neighborhood the better. Patriotic posters, bunting and stickers can bring your home and car to life. And why not celebrate with some fireworks in the evening to round off the day with more red, white and blue?
Catch the Best of the Day on TV and Watch a Military Movie
Local and national networks often show the highlights and live coverage of some of the more prominent parades around the country. Some fireworks shows are broadcast live online like many parades. And for a more relaxed but engaging way to spend the day, have a look at some of the most patriotic films about the armed forces.
Visit a Museum
There are museums like Russell Military Museum and the Military Museum of Texas that contain more information and history than you’ll likely learn in a lifetime, charting the major armed forces operations from 1776 until now. Museums like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, also have ample facilities and attractions for kids.
This is one of the first things that comes to mind for many when they think of Armed Forces Day, and while it can get hectic at air shows, it is an excellent way to get a first-hand look at the impressive technology used by the security forces today. A sunny day at an air show will certainly be one to remember, especially for children.
The Great Outdoors
If the weather is indeed forecasted to be good, then a more stress-free way to celebrate the day is to get out in the fresh air and visit a museum, memorial or monument in a nature setting. For example, the Chickamauga Battlefield trail has historical sites and information posts where you can see the setting for the famous battles there first-hand, while taking in the scenery.
From the national anthem to the Midshipmen-Black Knights rivalry, sports, patriotism and the armed forces are closely intertwined in American culture. At any major sporting event, there will be a healthy dose of fanfare for the military on Armed Forces Day, and games contribute to the atmosphere of the day.
Go on a Tour
Narrated boat tours, walking tours and bicycle tours – there are many ways to take in the historic military sites America has to offer with some expert advice and insight. It’s a busy day for these services, so try to book well in advance.
Get Involved with the Theme
Each year there is a theme, with the first ever being “Teamed for Defense” in 1950.
Check out the Military Maneuvers
While the parades and air shows are the highest profile operation performances, there are usually naval and air exercises and displays like fly-bys that can make the day a spectacle. Check online for any happening in your area.
Watch a Historical Recreation
Many historical recreation societies have events to celebrate the day, and an outdoor performance can possibly be the closest you can get to some of the most important events in U.S. history, like the battles of the War of Independence and the Civil War.
The events of Armed Forces Day can make it seem like a busy and stressful occasion, but there are many easy ways to celebrate it without having to go to too much trouble planning. The best things you can do are those that help service people and their families, and some of these activities can be low-key and enjoyable. The military is involved in several conflicts around the world and needs to always maintain the highest state of readiness. There are no off days, and the life of a serviceperson can be stressful. Supporting the service people, however, can be the easiest and most rewarding way to celebrate the day.And aside from this, there is a much wider range of activities than you might expect. From hiking to BBQ to meeting with friends, Armed Forces Day offers the opportunity to get back to basics with a true meaning of patriotism and service. The beginning of summer is a time of joy and fun, and ideas for kids like arts and crafts, or more serious activities like monument visiting are just some of the easy ways to spend a memorable Armed Forces Day.