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Holidays in May Recognize the U.S. Military

Image depicting Memorial Day.

In 1999, Congress designated May as Military Appreciation Month. Each year, the president of the United States makes a proclamation. While the proclamation is ceremonial, it serves as a reminder that the month is a time to recognize the U.S. Military’s important role in the country’s history.

Government officials chose May for this recognition because the month already had several days to reflect on the men and women of the armed forces. The month includes Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day).

Recognizing Our Service Members in May

The military has played an extensive role in United States history. Men and women have risked their lives, and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice during war.

Appreciating members of the armed forces can happen at any time. Yet, two days in May specifically recognize current military personnel and those lost during service.

Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day are two of the most well-known days during Military Appreciation Month. Though these days have their own meanings, they serve a common goal.

They help people understand the hard work and sacrifices the U.S. Armed Forces have made to serve the country.

A Brief History of Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day pays tribute to the men and women currently serving in all military branches. In 1949, the Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, announced the day would combine the separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. It also commemorated the creation of the Department of Defense, which moved the Army, Navy and Air Force under one department.

The following year, President Harry S. Truman declared the first Armed Forces Day would be held on May 20, 1950. Since then, Americans have celebrated Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May. It’s a day to honor and recognize the men and women serving in the military. For 2023, the day falls on the original May 20th date once again.

A Brief History of Memorial Day

The history of Memorial Day is less easy to track. Some claim a group of women started it in 1866. This theory begins when these women decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers and some Union soldiers who died at the Battle of Shiloh. Others claim it started two years later. Yet, it wasn’t until a century later that Congress gave Memorial Day national holiday status through the National Holiday Act of 1971.

The National Holiday Act set the last Monday of May as the official day. This year, it falls on May 29, 2023. It gives Americans time to honor and mourn the military personnel lost in service to the country. Although some Americans consider Memorial Day the official start of summer, it is a solemn day to remember.

Dangers Facing Service Members Continue Beyond the Obvious

The men and women of the military face danger frequently. The battlefield holds particular perils. However, these men and women face other threats, like toxic burn pits and contaminated water. These dangers can have a dire impact on the nation’s military personnel.

Asbestos is one of those hidden dangers, and each military branch used it. The naturally occurring mineral resists chemicals and heat well, making asbestos products popular in many areas. Many products contained asbestos, including insulation used on pipes in naval ships.

Asbestos exposure increases the risk of an asbestos-related disease like asbestosis or mesothelioma.

The Military, Asbestos and Mesothelioma

The military’s use of asbestos has put many veterans at risk of exposure. Between 1930 and 1980, the military’s asbestos use was at its highest. A 2021 industry report shows that more than 30% of mesothelioma claims come from military veterans. Also, each military branch had areas with higher risk. Areas where veterans and active-duty members could be exposed include:

  • The United States Air Force: Members of the Air Force and Air Force veterans may have been exposed to asbestos through aircraft parts or base facilities.
  • The United States Army: Army veterans and active-duty personnel may have faced exposure on military bases.
  • The United States Coast Guard: Coast Guard sailors and Coast Guard veterans tend to risk asbestos exposure on ships like the Coast Guard Cutters.
  • The United States Marine Corps: Active-duty and Marine Corps veterans may be exposed to asbestos on ships or bases.
  • The United States Navy: Navy veterans and active-duty men and women may be exposed on board Navy ships and at bases.

Military veterans and their families who have gotten sick after asbestos exposure may have legal options. For example, veterans may qualify for VA claims if they become sick from exposure. An experienced asbestos attorney can explain any available compensation options.