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Fact Sheet: Armed Forces Day Turns 50

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 19, 2000


Armed Forces Day Turns 50

Armed Forces Day, celebrated the third Saturday of May, was established on August 31, 1949, by then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Armed Forces Day replaced separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days, marking the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard, one of the Armed Forces that is under the Department of Transportation, is also honored.

Over the past 50 years, the tradition has evolved into a week of celebrations. It begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May, the day after the actual celebration of Armed Forces Day. Military bases and facilities around the world are holding events to commemorate Armed Forces Day.

President Clinton speaks today at Andrews Air Force Base during opening ceremonies kicking-off a three-day air show in celebration of Armed Forces Day. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, General Hugh Shelton, and Senator John Glenn will participate in the ceremony.

The air show will have displays and demonstrations from all branches of the military services that showcase the people, equipment, and technology of today’s U.S. Armed Forces, including:

  • search and rescue demonstrations;
  • a parachute team;
  • a Harrier “jump” jet;
  • aerial demonstrations by both the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds; and
  • aircraft displays, including the Air Force’s hi-tech B-2 stealth bomber.

During his remarks, President Clinton will highlight a nationwide initiative to restore the meaning behind Memorial Day. He will urge all Americans to observe on that day a moment of remembrance for our military heroes in the Armed Forces who have given their lives so that we might live in freedom and peace and, by doing so, help “put the Memorial back into Memorial Day.”

President Clinton will also discuss the importance he places on military readiness in today’s unique, multi-threat, high-tempo operational environment. The Administration has placed a priority on improving military readiness, including having:

  • Increased readiness spending, with a proposed $5.4 billion increase for fiscal year 2001.
  • Worked over the last two fiscal years to add $124 billion over the next 5 years to improve facilities, strengthen readiness, speed modernization, and support personnel.
  • Raised military pay by 8 percent in the last 2 years. This year’s pay raise is the largest in nearly 20 years with further pay raises planned.
  • Modified the military pay scale, to take effect this July, with increases of nearly 5 percent to reward and retain middle-level service members who have gained experience.

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