What is Armed Forces Day?
Armed Forces Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, which are celebrated this year on November 11th and May 30th respectively.
Armed Forces Day is an annual holiday that pays tribute to the men and women who serve across all six branches of the U.S. military. This year, it’s being celebrated on Saturday, May 21.
Saturday, May 20, 1950, marked the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It was the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, “President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.”
From The American Presidency Project, Proclamation 2873—Armed Forces Day, 1950: “I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim that Saturday, May 20, 1950, shall be known as Armed Forces Day; and I invite the Governors of the States, Territories, and possessions to issue proclamations calling for the celebration of that day in such manner as to honor the Armed Forces of the United States and the millions of veterans who have returned to civilian pursuits.”
A Proclamation on Armed Forces Day, 2022
On Armed Forces Day, we share our unending appreciation for the proud patriots who answer the call to serve, taking the sacred oath to defend our Constitution. The brave members of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard and Reserve forces represent the best of our Nation. Today and every day, we honor their immeasurable service on behalf of our grateful Nation.
On this special day of tribute, we recognize the sacrifices that our service members and their families make on our behalf, and we recommit to our solemn duty to support them as they protect us. Our Nation has a sacred obligation to properly equip and prepare our troops when we send them in to harm’s way and to support them — both while they are serving abroad and when they return home — as well as their families, caregivers, and survivors. We must meet this obligation.
Servicemen AND Veterans. We must meet our obligations to BOTH groups!
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” – George Washington
Thank you to all who proudly serve (or have served) our country. Your sacrifices, as well as the sacrifices of your families continues to make it possible for the rest of us to enjoy the freedoms that are typically taken for granted.
We, as a nation MUST do a better job of not only recognizing our servicemen and women through special days and holidays, and on key remembrance dates, but also each and every day. We MUST do more for these individuals and their families. We MUST show our gratitude, and also our respect that we truly care.
Quite frankly, actions speak louder than words and we are just not doing enough! If one veteran is homeless, if just one veteran is unemployed and if one veteran’s family is doing without… then we must do more, not just to help but to provide them all they truly deserve!
As May is National Health Awareness Month, we should also keep front of mind how our veterans are affected by mental health issues. After all, our current servicemen will become veterans at some point.
A major, yet preventable health problem in the U.S. is suicide. Sadly, veterans comprise nearly a quarter of suicide deaths in the U.S.
In 2017, a team of researchers looking at data on more than 4.8 million Veterans found that Veterans with substance use disorders had twice the risk of suicide compared to those without a substance use disorder.
Other commonly cited factors leading to increased suicide risk in veterans as well as other groups:
- Anger, rage, mood swings, and episodes of anxiety and agitation.
- Expressing feelings of having no reason to live
- Increased alcohol and/or substance abuse.
- Self-destructive and risky behaviors like driving while impaired.
The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population.
Comparing the rate among female veterans to non-Veteran adult women, the rate is 2.5 times higher. From 2001 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) reports an increased suicide rate among women using VA health services from 14.4 per 100,000 to 17.3 per 100,000.
Suicide rates are especially high among older veterans. According to the VA, in 2016, about 58% of all veterans committed suicide were among Veterans aged 55 years or older.
About 20 veterans commit suicide a day, and nearly three quarters are not under VA care.
Several other factors, in addition to distance, play a role in higher suicide rates. Certain emotional precursors may precede suicide events, including feelings of loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, and depression. In a summary of multiple studies, the VA found a variety of factors that may increase the risk of suicide, especially where multiple factors exist, some of these include:
- Acute psychosocial stressors.
- Having low cholesterol.
- Higher doses of opioid medications for pain control.
- Mental health conditions like anxiety disorder, manic-depressive disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- Substance abuse, especially heavy binge drinking.
Connection between Substance Abuse and Veteran Suicide Risk
Alcohol and substance abuse can play a particularly and significant role in the increased risk of suicide. In fact, veterans that abuse drug or alcohol are over twice as likely to die by suicide than other veterans. In general, people abusing drugs and alcohol are more likely:
- To be depressed.
- To have social and financial problems.
- To engage in impulsive and high-risk behaviors.
More than 1 in 10 veterans are diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Veterans are more likely to use alcohol; many are also have a greater risk opioid overdose.
Mental illness has strong links to suicide among veterans. While alcohol and drug abuse accounts for higher suicide risk, other co-occurring mental disorders are often associated between substance abuse and suicide.10 The more common mental disorders among veterans are PTSD and depression. For example, exposure to trauma or suffering a TBI while in the service can lead to increased risk of both substance abuse and PTSD or depression.
It is estimated that up to half of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have a mental health diagnosis.
Veterans coping with the dual diagnosis of substance abuse and PTSD are likely to have psychiatric and medical conditions, such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Liver disease
If you or someone you know needs help dealing with suicidal thoughts, help is available 24/7. National Suicide Prevention Hotline, call 1-800-273-8255. You can also text 838255 or chat online with a crisis counselor.
Resource for Veterans & Family Members
- AAC’s Resources for Veterans
- AAC Provides Free Treatment to Veterans
- Common Roadblock Veterans Face when Seeking Help through the VA
- Drug Rehab Guide for Addicted Veterans and Their Families
- Heroin Addition in Veterans
- Opioid Addiction in Veterans
- Guide to AAC’s Treatment for Veterans
- How to Pay for Rehab with the MISSION Act Community Care Program
- How Substance Abuse Effect Veterans and Their Families
- Signs of PTSD in Military Service Members
- Veteran’s Guide to Choosing a Recovery Center
- Veteran Mental Health and Substance Abuse in America
A special thanks to the American Addiction Centers for publishing the information shared above, and for keeping us aware of the mental health problems among veterans today.