Happy Armed Forces Day.

Or did you forget?

Back in 1949, President Harry S. Truman created the Department of Defense and — in 1950 — he created Armed Forces Day to go along with it. Before that, each branch of the service had separate celebrations. Truman wanted to foster more unity.

As the saying goes, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But in recent years, Armed Forces Day has fallen on lean times. We use Memorial Day as a substitute. Still, since the day was set aside to honor active military personnel, and since it is a time of war, keeping the coals of the day burning is worthwhile.

Originally, the day was meant to bring civilians and the military a little closer together — to get them on the same page, so to speak. The army would showcase its latest weapons. Citizens would tour bases and learn military terms and strategy. Boy Scouts would jump on board with displays and outings. Today, nobody is quite sure what is appropriate. One Web site lists half-a-dozen ideas of things to do on AFD. Among them: Visit a military base nearby and ask questions. Contribute to the preservation of a military monument. Do volunteer work in disaster relief or food services. Give blood. Work at a food kitchen.

The feeling is that helping in the community is the civilian equivalent of a strong defense. And it probably is. But at this late notice, perhaps the best one can hope for is simple recognition of the day itself. If you're reading this, take a few moments to think about the military souls serving in so many ways. Mention them in a conversation or two, a prayer or two, and keep in mind that members of the military remain alert so citizens can go about their lives.

It was Douglas Jerrold who said, "Soldiers looked at as they ought to be are to the world as poppies in the cornfields."

Soldiers may well agree with that.

And so would the farmers and other workers who daily bank on the readiness of the Department of Defense. Even on Armed Forces Day.