With the demobilization of our Gulf troops in its early stages, attention is being turned to some very special reunions for our military, their families and friends.
It serves as a special time for all of us to recognize their service: May is Military Appreciation Month, with many activities planned nationwide by government and private entities.
In 1999, a resolution was passed in Congress proclaiming May as National Military Appreciation Month. It is a time to remember those who gave their lives in defense of our nation's freedom and honoring those Americans who have served their country, and the men and women now serving in uniform - active duty in all services, the National Guard and Reserves - and all of their families, well over 80 million Americans and more than 225 years of our American history.
The month of May includes VE Day (May 8), Military Spouse Day (May 9), Loyalty Day (May 3), Armed Forces Day/Week (May 17), National Day of Prayer (May 1), and Memorial Day (May 30).
Recent events have gone a long way in helping Americans appreciate the significance of our fighting forces. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld just this week traveled to the Gulf region, and brought that gratitude with him in the form of well-deserved public praise and a prediction for the future.
“You protected our country from a gathering danger and liberated the Iraqi people,’ Rumsfeld said. “You liberated a country, but how you did it will help transform the way we defend our country in the 21st century.’
"It is important to recognize the courage, heroism and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, especially at this time in our nation’s history," said Edward A. Powell, USO president and CEO. "We owe it to our service members to thank them for the contributions they have made on our behalf, both in times of war and times of peace, and to ensure that succeeding generations are aware of their impact on our nation’s history," he added.
How you can help this month
Veterans Advantage is also pitching in this month. We are asking that all our members honor, remember, and appreciate our military by displaying U.S. Flags and Yellow Ribbons on cars, homes, businesses, and classrooms. Bring a child to military museums, such as the U.S.S. Intrepid and Fleet Week on May 21-27 (both in New York City) to educate them about the unprecedented liberties and historical significance that our military has brought to us.
And we also ask all our members to do what they can in welcoming the troops as they come home. Some cities already have had homecoming celebrations. In Norfolk, Va., and Groton, Conn., for instance, transport ships and submarines returned to thousands of flag-waving family members. Many ships have also pulled back in recent weeks. The only carrier left in the Gulf is the USS Nimitz.
Servicemen and women of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit - the first ground unit to be ordered out of the region - are to set sail and arrive at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in time for Memorial Day. The unit has been deployed for eight months, including about a month in central Iraq.
And a special moment to acknowledge how Operation Iraqi Freedom impacted American families is also needed, too. With roughly 250,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists called into action with our fulltime troops, the effect on families and their civilian careers has been significant. Over 40% of our Armed Services is represented by these patriots, up from only eight percent during the first Gulf War.
If know a neighbor whose family member served in recent months, please stop by to offer your thanks. The gift of gratitude goes a long way.
For more information on Military Appreciation Month, please visit www.nmam.org