A Guide to US Military Holidays

By | April 29, 2017

Do you have relatives and maybe ancestors who have fought in war? This guide to US military holidays will show you what days they celebrated. There are many different days throughout the year where we commemorate the fallen, the wounded and anyone who was and has been affected my war. There is of course Memorial Day, Confederate Memorial Day and most famously Independence Day. But there are others that you may not be aware of.

US Military Holidays

Some of these special dates have been given either a state or federal holiday where either state or federal offices are closed for that day. There are also public holidays where the general public can take a day off so that they can remember and honor anyone who may have been connected with war.

US Military Holidays:

If you think that I have left out a commemorative day then please feel free to comment below or you can always contact me personally.

Credit:   Ancestry


Air Force Birthday – September 18th

President Harry S Truman in 1947 signed the National Security Act which established the Air Force as a new defense organization. The result of this made the US Air Force its own independent service which made it equal to both the US Army and US Navy.

Because of this significant date in history September 18th has been made the official birthday of the US Air Force.


Armed Forces Day – 3rd Saturday of May

This is a day for everyone to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the US Armed Forces. The United States Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, proposed such a day back in 1949 in order to replace the separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days that already existed.

What Is Armed Forces Day?

The date chosen for this to honor these brave fighters is the third Saturday of May. Armed Forces Day is preceded by Armed Forces Week which begins on the second Saturday of May.

The forces that are honored include:

  • the Air Force,
  • Army,
  • Marines,
  • Navy, and
  • the Coast Guard.

Both the National Guard and Reserve units also observe Armed Forces Day/Week. However, they may not celebrate it at the same time as the other forces dues to their training schedule.

Please read my What Is Armed Forces Day All About post for more information behind this special day!


Army Birthday – June 14th

The U.S. Army was founded on June 14th 1775, which was shortly after the very first conflict occurred between the British and the rebellious American colonies. Previous to this date in history amateurs volunteered to take on the seasoned British soldiers.

Therefore on June 14th the Continental Congress authorized the enlistment of expert rifleman to help fight against the British.

As with the other military days this is a day for us to remember the troops and also the sacrifices that they have made.


Army Reserves Birthday – April 23rd

Founded on April 23rd 1908 the Medical Reserve Corps was established. This was a precursor to the Army Reserve. Reserve soldiers have fought in every major military campaign ever since the First World War. Today there is approximately 200,000 reserves all over the world.


Confederate Memorial Day – Dates in January, April, May and June

Eight southern U.S. States remember the soldiers who fought and died during the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865. The wounded are also commemorated on this day.

Confederate Memorial Day

Despite only lasting for four years there was an incredible number of people who lost their lives during this war, approximately 750,000. This number was higher the combined deaths of both the First and Second World Wars combined.

There were eleven confederate states in the south that broke away from the rest of the United States. They did not wish to abolish slavery and so political tension grew from this. Tensions also grew with the expansion into the west of the country and how to best deal with this new frontier.

Please read my What Is Confederate Memorial Day All About post for more information behind this special day!


D-Day – June 6

The Allied troops of Britain, Canada, United States and France, (about 160,000 in total), landed on the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6th 1944 to fight against the Nazis. Then General Dwight D Eisenhower would accept nothing less than victory on this assault.

Thousands of men lost their lives during this invasion and it is them that we remember, as well as the wounded. Although not a holiday people still observe this important date in American history with memorials and ceremonies.


Day of the Deployed – October 16th

This is a day where we can all honor any U.S. personnel who has been deployed. It is a day to honor the sacrifice that they have made by serving their country. The families of these men and women are also acknowledged who are separated from their loved ones and their sacrifices as well.

National Day of the Deployed was founded in 2006 by Shelle Michaels Aberle. She asked the North Dakota Governor at the time, John Hoeven, for a North Dakota Proclamation supporting this day. As such this was the first time that there was a formal proclamation honoring and recognizing deployed troops.

The date chosen for this day was October 16th, which is the birthday of Aberle’s cousin, LTC David Hosna. He was deployed to Iraq from Germany.


Gold Star Mother’s Day – June 23rd

Also referred to as American Gold Star Mother’s Day and National Gold Star Mother’s Day. A Gold Star refers to a person who has died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

When this day was originally created in 1928 it was for mothers who had lost either a son or daughter in the First World War. Then later it was for any mother who had lost their child in any military service.


Hug A G.I. Day – March 4th

Not only can you hug a G.I. on this day but also give them a pat on the back or a handshake instead. It is a way for us to show support for what they have sacrificed and what they are doing for our country. But please do not forget about the veterans as well on this day.

If you cannot show your support personally then how about a phone call, text, or email instead.

As a side note the term G.I. originally meant “Government Issue” or “General Issue“. It started to gain meaning as a generic enlisted man during the time of the Second World War. Servicemen started to refer to themselves as G.I.s as they felt they were being mass produced.


Independence Day – July 4th

Known famously as “the Fourth of July” this date in history marks the anniversary of the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776.

What Is Independence Day?

Prior to this date in 1775 the state of New England began to fight against the British in order to gain independence from them. Then on July 2nd 1776 the Congress took a secret vote for independence.

Two days later the final wording for the Declaration of Independence was approved. However, it was not until July 8th that the Declaration was read out in public. And then only on August 2nd was it signed by delegates.

Please read my What Is Independence Day All About post for more information behind this special day!


Juneteenth /Emancipation Day – June 19th

The American Civil War between 1861 and 1865 was the result of tension between eleven southern states and the rest of America. These confederate states were not ready to abolish slavery and so they wanted to break away from the rest of the country.

Approximately 2 million men fought for the Union, and about a million fought for the Confederates. Over the four bloody years there were battles being fought in thousands of places.

June 19th 1865 marks the end of slavery in Texas when Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and as a result the last remaining slaves were freed. This day is very significant as it recognizes freedom and equal rights in America.


K9 Veterans Day – March 13th

A somewhat forgotten member of the United States military is our canine companion. The First World War saw dogs being used as message carriers and sentries, as well as other suitable tasks. The Americans took note of this and a Dogs for Defense program was initiated.

The American Kennel Club and a few breeders were responsible for training dogs to be used for military service. The first group of dogs were sent to North Africa. They were rather gun shy to begin with but over time they became quite an important aid for the American army.

So successful was the program that new divisions were created so that even more dogs could be trained and put into action.

The official birthday for the K9 Corps is March 13th, which was formed back in 1942. The idea came from a retired military working dog trainer called Joseph White.


Korean War Veterans Armistice Day – July 27th

The Korean War began in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United States joined the United Nations to help the South Korean country against this invasion. On the North Korean side were principally the Chinese and Russian.

This special date, July 27th 1950, marks the anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended the Korean War. Up until that date truce talks had been going on for the best part of two years. The war ended when the treaty was signed in 1953.

Over 37,000 U.S. Americans lost their lives during the war, and a further 103,000 were wounded during the conflict.

President Bill Clinton in 1998 proclaimed that this day in July would be a national day of recognition to commemorate the U.S. personnel who lost their lives. And so appropriate ceremonies and activities are put on to give thanks to the Korean War veterans.


Marine Corps Birthday – November 10th

The Continental Marines were established on November 10th 1775 at the start of the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. The United States Marine Corps Birthday is celebrated on this day where there is a traditional ball. Of course no birthday would be complete without a cake to be cut as well.

Before 1921 however the establishing of the marines was celebrated in July 11th. And with little fanfare. That was until Major Edwin North McClellan suggested that November be declared a Marine Corps holiday.

Four years later and the Marine Corps had their first formal ball. But it would not be until 1952 that there would be a cake cutting ceremony.


Maritime Day – May 22nd

The National Maritime Day is celebrated on May 22nd each year. Although primarily this day is set aside to show gratitude to the maritime industry and its benefits it brings to the country it does also recognize their involvement in conflict.

During the Second World War incredibly more than 250,000 members of the American Merchant Marine did their duty and defended their country and helped their allies. Sadly 6,700 lost their lives in doing so.

More than 800 ships were sunk during the war and hundreds of marines were detained as prisoners of war. So Maritime Day acknowledges the people that have served in the merchant marines and also have served their country.


Medal of Honor Day – March 25th

March 25th 1863 was the first time that Medals of Honor were presented. They were given to six members of the “Andrews Raiders” who had volunteered their services in a raid in April 1862 during the American Civil War.

The Medal of Honor however was in fact created two years previously in 1861. It is the highest honor to bestow upon military personnel. The medal is presented by the President in the name of Congress for their acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

There is a version for each division of military service. So there is one for the Air Force, one for the Army, and one for the Navy. The Coast Guard and Marine Corps receive the Navy version.

The United States Congress back in 1990 designated March 25th as the National Medal of Honor Day.


Memorial Day – Last Monday of May

Formerly known as Decoration Day the last Monday of May is observed to commemorate all U.S. personnel who have died in military service. On this day in May many people will visit cemeteries and memorials.

What Is Memorial Day All About?

In Mississippi Memorial Day is also combined with Jefferson Davis Day. This date also marks the start of summer.

American flags will be placed on the graves in national cemeteries, and flags on buildings and at special sites of remembrance are placed at half mast between dawn and noon.

These days though on this day many people will reunite with family and take up activities, such as sports or maybe a picnic as well.

Please read my What Is Memorial Day All About post for more information behind this special day!


Military Appreciation Month – May

National Military Appreciation Month lets us show appreciation for past and current members of the military, as well as those who have died in service. During this month there are six particular days to show our support.


Military Spouse Appreciation Day – Friday before Mother’s Day

Traditionally held on the Friday before Mother’s Day this day recognizes the partners, wives and husbands of U.S. personnel who hold the fort at home. On May 23rd 1984 Appreciation Day was a one-off observance proclaimed by then President Ronald Reagan.

Military Spouse Appreciation Day or Military Spouse Day was then made into an annual occurrence. Not only is it a day to recognize the effect on spouses for providing for their families on their own but also in maintaining morale to the military and to their partner.

In 1999 the U.S. declared that the month of May would become known as National Military Month. May would be recognized as a month for Americans to acknowledge the service of both men and women in the military.


Month of the Military Child – April

Yes this is a month long celebration instead of a day, but I felt it was only right to include here in this post.

The importance of the military child is celebrated during the month of April. During this month we recognize the sacrifices that a military family makes.


National Defense Transportation Day – Third Friday of May

Occurring annually on the third Friday of May National Defense Transportation Day remembers the contributions of people working in the transport industry. Defense Transportation Day is a part of National Transportation Week, May 11 to 17.

The Congress on May 16th 1957 approved this day to honor and recognize the people who have contributed to the nation’s well-being and also to its defense. Then 5 years later in 1962 a week long event was requested by Congress.


National Guard Birthday – December 13th

You may very well be surprised that the military organization the National Guard is over 380 years old. The National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13th 1636.

In that year Massachusetts General Court requested that all able-bodied men between 16 and 60 years of age to join the militia. Because of this order the North, South and East Regiments were established in this year.

Because of past failures of colonizing Massachusetts it was decided that citizens should be proactive and ready for any hostility. And so becoming a part of society meant that you had to give up your time in order to fight.


October 13th marks the anniversary that the U.S. Navy was established in 1775. This date is regarded as the birthday of the American Navy.

During the American Revolutionary War, between 1775 and 1783, two armed vessels were authorized by the Continental Congress to search for ships that were supplying the British with weapons and ammunition. The United States Navy was known as the Continental Navy at that time.

Anyone association with the U.S. Navy, such as personnel, veterans or anyone connected with the navy celebrate this special day in October. There is the Navy Birthday Ball which is a formal dinner. And being a birthday there is obviously a cake and entertainment put on as well.


Patriots Day – Third Monday of April

The battles of Lexington and Concord are commemorated on the third Monday of April. These battles were fought in the state of Boston at the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1775.

What Is Patriots Day?

Patriot’s Day, (or Patriots’ Day), should not be confused with Patriot Day that marks the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

Re-enactments of these battles are put on on this day in April. Part of the re-enactment sees the ringing of the bell that warned the colonists that British soldiers were approaching.

Concerts, lectures and road races are also organized for this day. State, county and municipal offices are closed as well as schools. However, as it is not a federal holiday these offices remain open.

Please read my What Is Patriots Day All About post for more information behind this special day!


Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – December 7th

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day remembers and commemorates the attack that took place on December 7th in 1941. Many U.S. personnel lost their lives during this attack by the Japanese. This day is also referred to as Pearl Harbor Day.

The American flag is displayed at homes, at the White House and government buildings as well on this day, and flies at half-mast. Special services are put on to remember the lives that were lost.

Events such as wreath-laying ceremonies, speeches and luncheons, recollections from survivors read out take place on this day. Schools also educate their students on the significance of this date in history.


VE Day – May 8th

Celebrated on May 8th each year this is day in 1945 when Germany surrendered to the allies. This day effectively marked the end of the Second World War.

It is also referred to as Victory in Europe Day.


VJ Day – August 14th

Known also as Victory over Japan Day this celebrates the Japan’s surrender to the Allies.


Veterans Day – November 11th

Held annually on November 11th this date marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War between the Allies and Germany. The treaty was signed on November 11th 1918. This armistice took effect on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918.

What Is Veterans Day?

This special day was known as Armistice Day. But in 1954 the Congress was urged to change the name to Veterans Day instead. This change was approved by the Congress that same year. And from then on this day not only commemorates veterans from the First World War but any war as well.

On this day veterans are honored for their service to the United States military. Not only are the personnel from the First World War remembered and commemorated but also anyone involved in any conflict during America’s history.

There are church services and parades, and the American flag is displayed and flown at half-mast. There is also a two minute silence observed throughout the nation that begins at 11am.


Final Thoughts

What surprised when I began to research and write this post was the high number of days there are that recognizes anyone connected with the military and defense of the United States. There are so many people that have been affected by wars and conflict during the history of America.

For me as a genealogist I like to not only remember the fallen, wounded and affected but I also like to research my own family history and any wars that my ancestors were involved in. It is a special time for me as I not only remember them but also the sacrifices that they made as well.


Military Collection

You may too wish to research the military life of your ancestors on any of these special days that I have discussed above. The Ancestry website is a great place for you to start that journey. There are many military records on this genealogy search site for you to search through to find your war ancestors.


Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed reading about all these US military Holidays. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or you want to share your stories of these special days then please comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

8 thoughts on “A Guide to US Military Holidays

  1. Ingrid Leverrier

    Wow . . . I hadn’t realised how many days there were that celebrated and/or remembered those who have, and continue to, serve for their country . I have travelled to Pearl Harbour – such a sad event that is remembered there.
    I love that there is a Spouse Appreciation Day.
    Thanks for the info.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Yes it was surprising to me when I compiled this post. I am glad though that there are days dedicated for different service men and women.

      Reply
  2. Verl Murphy

    Thanks for this post… I am a Viet Nam Veteran and I totally appreciate that someone cares about all Vets and current military people. This information is great and very timely..

    Again, Thanks for your support ..
    Vic

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you for enjoying the post Verl. I not only wanted to show appreciation for current and past U.S. personnel but also our ancestors from generations ago who fought for America.

      Reply
  3. Carole

    Thank you for this! As an Air Force brat with ancestors who served in practically every branch of the U.S. military since the Civil War, I have heard and celebrated most of these. They are recognized primarily within the various branches of service. There is even a whole month (April) when the children of the military families are celebrated. Those who lived the military life, the spouses who supported them and the children born and raised in a military world have a different perspective of duty and sacrifice. I have been honored to live all over the world, and had a rare opportunity to learn about many different cultures, but I never lived in one place longer then two years nearly my entire life. What I cannot perceive, as hard as I have tried, is how some people have never traveled anywhere but within the state in which they were born – and the person who has never been on an airplane.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Hi Carole, it’s true that these days would affect people differently. It does depend if you have someone you care about in the military, or are in the military yourself on how you feel.

      To be honest I always thought that I would stay in my home town. But that changed when I met my wife. And now I couldn’t be happier, although I do miss my home from time to time.

      Reply
  4. Edgar

    Thanks for your post and mentioning Juneteenth Day! I also have been doing family research on Ancestry.com the past several years. I submitted a DNA sample and have found out lots of interesting facts about myself and family I did not know prior.

    Best,

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      You’re quite welcome Edgar. I have tried to mention every military day that I can find. But when I started this I just didn’t realize how many there were.

      Glad you did take a DNA test. Glad to hear as well you got something out of it as well.

      Reply

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