| ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., May 18, 2007 Ask someone serving in the military, and you might be surprised to hear them tell you just how much Armed Forces Day means to them.
As the country commemorates its 57th Armed Forces Day tomorrow, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines say theyre grateful for a special day set aside to recognize them and their service. Its particularly important, they say, while the country is at war.
After 14 years in the Army and two deployments to the Middle East, Army Sgt. Robert Clark said he welcomes a day honoring the men and women in uniform.
For us in the military, its a big thing, said Clark, a member of the Fort Hood, Texas-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 21 Field Artillery Regiment. Its a day set aside for us to be recognized.
It really does mean something to us, said Marine Staff Sgt. Kalvin Smith, a communications sergeant for The Basic School at Quantico, Va. It lets us know that people care about us, and makes us feel really good.
It keeps our morale up, agreed Marine Cpl. Dan Triemert, crew chief aboard a C-130J Hercules aircraft based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. It reminds you that people care, and helps people realize what we go through out there.
It lifts you up, said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Timothy Beidleman, an aviations electronics technical based at Andrews Air Force Base.
Beidleman, a veteran of three deployments, said Armed Forces Day helps servicemembers stand back and remind themselves how important they are to the country.
It wasnt until I got back home from Iraq that I realized the impact of what I do, he said. So a day that helps us think about that is important.
Air Force Capt. William Cooper, a chaplain with the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Del., said formally recognizing the men and women does more than recharge and reinvigorate the troops. It also gives a chance for their families and the American public to pause and take note of their contributions. It builds support, he said.
Staff Sgt. David Butcher, an 11-year veteran of the Air Force, said thats especially important when U.S. troops are serving in harms way. Thats when we need the support of our local community, he said.
Especially in todays day and age, when we have so many people sacrificing so much, its a way to recognize the personal aspect to their service and their contributions, agreed Marine Corps Maj. Garrett Miller, site commander at the Anacostia Naval Annex in Washington.
Miller called Armed Forces Day an opportunity to honor the people giving so much for their country. We have individuals there who are serving and even dying, and this is some small way to recognize them and give back, he said.
Its a chance for people to express their appreciation of the military, said Air Force Capt. Scott Kramer, assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. Its a good day for people to say, Yes, we do support the military the volunteers who keep this country free.
That support matters regardless of what people think about the war politically, said Army staff Sgt. Sean Hackett, an artilleryman from Fort Bliss, Texas. People can be against the war; thats fine. But they have to recognize our military. We are loyal Americans, and the military is the backbone of freedom.
Without our military, our country cant have that freedom, Hackett said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a proclamation urging people to take a few minutes this weekend to express appreciation to the military.
Both at home and abroad, our servicemembers are hard at work, carrying on a proud tradition of service and sacrifice, he said. They fight without pause and without complaint, and their dedication helps ensure the freedoms we enjoy.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to attend the three-day Joint Service Open House that kicked off here today and serves as the militarys official Armed Forces Day observance.