Saturday is Armed Forces Day.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, on Aug. 31, 1949, Armed Forces Day was created to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days — with the single-day celebration stemming from the unification of the Armed Forces, including the Marines, under one department — the Department of Defense.

In an excerpt from the presidential proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, the DOD quotes Harry Truman saying, “Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks 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 is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”

The DOD chronicles the inaugural event: “The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. In Washington, D.C., 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets, and veterans marched past the President and his party. In Berlin, 1,000 U.S. troops paraded for the German citizens at Templehof Airfield. In New York City, an estimated 33,000 participants initiated Armed Forces Day ‘under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types.’ In the harbors across the country were the famed mothballed ‘battlewagons’ of World War II, the Missouri, the New Jersey, the North Carolina, and the Iowa, all open for public inspection. Precision flying teams dominated the skies as tracking radar were exhibited on the ground. All across the country, the American people joined together to honor the Armed Forces.”

The DOD quoted Gen. Omar N. Bradley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying, “The heritage of freedom must be guarded as carefully in peace as it was in war. Faith, not suspicion, must be the key to our relationships. Sacrifice, not selfishness, must be the eternal price of liberty. Vigilance, not appeasement, is the byword of living freedoms. Our Armed Forces in 1950 — protecting the peace, building for security with freedom —are ‘Teamed for Defense.’”

Retired Col. Donald “Doc” Ballard, Kansas National Guard, a Medal of Honor recipient, said Armed Forces Day is one time America must stop and think about the price of freedom.

“Freedom just did not happen ... Veterans fought for it, and the military is still fighting for it today. Military veterans, in some cases, pay with their lives; others come home with disabilities they have to live with for the rest of their lives. Families also pay a different price, to include losing a son or daughter to the war. I believe we owe the veterans and their families a huge debt of gratitude; they are the ones who paid the price for the ones who did not serve.”

It may sound cliché but freedom has never been free.

The liberties we all enjoy have come at great cost.

The men and women of our armed forces have given of themselves, sometimes even to the giving of their own lives, so we can all be free.

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