Leaders Laud Service Members on Armed Forces Day
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., May 19, 2000 Foul weather stayed away just long enough for the president, the secretary of defense and other leaders to tout the accomplishments of America's military on the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day.
President Bill Clinton, former Ohio Senator John Glenn, Defense Secretary William Cohen, and Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater sang service members' praises and spoke of the importance of celebrating Armed Forces Day at a joint service open house here.
Army Secretary Louis Caldera and Navy Secretary Richard Danzig joined former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili and retired Air Force Gen. David Jones at the ceremony. Members of the current Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by Chairman Army Gen. Hugh Shelton and Vice Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers also attended.
Glenn said the commemoration has changed a lot since its earliest days. "Back in days past, there was occasionally an open house on bases around the country, but no one day in which we honored our armed services and in which we opened all the bases and let all the people in to see what kind of equipment their tax dollars were buying," he said. But President Harry S. Truman changed all that.
In 1950, Truman called on Americans to "display the flag of the United States at their homes on Armed Forces Day and to participate in exercises expressive of our recognition of the skill, gallantry, and uncompromising devotion to duty characteristic of the Armed Forces in the carrying out of their missions."
Glenn said opening military bases to the public is representative of a free nation. "We don't try and hide everything," he said. "We want the people to see what their defense is all about. More importantly than just seeing the hardware however is seeing the people."
The dedication of service members today is just as great as those who served in the past, he said. "And serve they have," Glenn said. "Through war and peace, always dedicated, however, to keeping the peace."
Cohen compared the status of the armed forces today with that of a year ago, when America and her allies had just assumed the "burden ... of standing up to a dictator determined to drive an entire people from their homes."
Now, he said, because of Clinton's leadership and the "remarkable service" of service members, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's "thugs" are out of Kosovo, and international peacekeepers are in. "There is hope for a more stable and peaceful tomorrow," Cohen said.
Clinton also looked back to the time of Truman's Armed Forces Day proclamation. "It was then an uncertain time for our country, Americans were coming to realize that our new global leadership carried with it global responsibilities, chief among them defense of freedom across the world," Clinton said. "American troops then still occupied Germany and soon would be pouring into Korea. All around us there were new and terrifying weapons, determined adversaries and an unfamiliar landscape.
"Against that backdrop, President Truman moved to put into place the foundations of America's modern military, a force united under the Department of Defense," he continued.
The first Armed Forces Day focused on service unity and reassured Americans the military was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead, Clinton said. "Fifty years later, we can look back proudly on a half century in which America's best have more than met those challenges."
After the president's remarks, the ceremony ended with a fly-over with one aircraft from each service.