Culminating tomorrow, 28th May, is a Spanish Armed Forces event that we think is probably unique in Europe: Armed Forces Day. It combines the pomp and circumstance of a military parade in Madrid, like the 14th July in Paris, a memorial to those who have given their lives for their country, like the Cenotaph ceremony in London every 11th November, with a number of good-natured and casual “open day” events that have taken place this week to allow the Spanish public into and onto all sorts of sites and equipment that are normally out of bounds.
The Armed Forces’ Day has taken place on the nearest Saturday to the 30th May every year since 1978 and proves extremely popular with the Spanish public who have responded to the idea, first launched 38 ago, of an event created to foster better intelligence between the armed forces and Spanish society and allow the public to discover what daily life is like for the military, how they organise their time, the missions and types of jobs they do. In short, get to know them better and thank them for the job they do.
But, as the Defence Ministry concedes on its website “the armed forces, like their special day, have been adapting to the times we live in so DIFAS 2016 will repeat the same austere format of the last editions.”
The military parade of 734 soldiers will include men and women from the Royal Guard, the army, the navy, the air force and the Guardia Civil (militarised police).
Cultural and sporting events will be taking place throughout the country and many military sites will be holding open doors.
Most of the activities in Coruña, Cantabria, Andalucia, Murcia, the Balearic islands are centred for obvious geographical reasons on the Armada, the Spanish navy.
The army has Asturias, Pamplona, La Rioja and Navarra to itself where it has been exhibiting weapons, vehicles and equipment and demonstrating various tactics these past few day; in the País Vasco (Basque country), Cataluña, Castilla y Leon, Castilla la Mancha, Extremadura, the Comunidad Valenciana and the Canary Islands the army dominates most of the activities but the navy and air force also get a look in.
The air force’s main fief is in Aragon.
Tomorrow’s event will be attended by the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the Capitán General de las Fuerzas Armadas, HRH King Felipe VI.