United in strength

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- May 16 is Armed Forces Day and while our servicemen and women serve every day this is a special time set aside to honor them.

In 1947, "in recognition of the personnel of the victorious Army Air Forces and all those who have developed and maintained our nation's air strength", President Harry Truman established Air Force Day. Just two years later, on August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day, which signified the unification of all Armed Forces under one department, the Department of Defense.

In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman "praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas" and said, "It is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace."

It has been nearly 60 years since President Truman signed the proclamation establishing Armed Forces Day as the third Saturday in May. A time the nation pauses to honor the courage and dedication of these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

They are America's finest, the guardians of our freedom. These young men and women answer the call to duty, from the flightline to the front line, whether on the home front or far away from home.

President George W. Bush has said that our armed forces are "America's insurance policy in a world of change and challenge." Often they serve with little fanfare, but thankfully, they are ready to go when needed. And they have never let us down.

But in today's society, many of our citizens rarely have a chance to see our military in action, to appreciate the sacrifices involved in military service. Less than 10 percent of all Americans today are serving or have ever served in the military. This means that nearly 90 percent may have a limited knowledge about military life.

That makes Armed Forces Day even more important. Think of it as an opportunity to be an ambassador and teach about your nation's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

According to a New York Times article published on May 17, 1952: "This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won't be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty."

This May 16th, take time to thank our Armed Forces members for their selfless contributions to the defense of our country. For those of you who are part of the Armed Forces know that your service does not go unnoticed. We're fortunate to live in Interior Alaska, a community noted for its patriotism and generous support and recognition of the military. I urge Icemen to continue to serve faithfully, to fly, fight and win--keeping the Iceman Team ready to go at 50 below!