On Thursday, Fort Stewart will celebrate the 237th birthday of the U.S. Army. We’d like to join in wishing not only the Army a happy birthday, but also take a moment to honor all the men and women who have served and are serving now.
They, like the society they represent, have changed over the years. Today’s soldiers are arguably better educated, better equipped and better led than at any time in our nation’s history. They have borne the grind of more than a decade of war and multiple deployments with courage.
The Army they serve has changed as well, a reflection of the society it protects as the country’s largest land-based military service.
From its early beginnings as a continental militia and times when the conscription meant every male of a certain age might be drafted, to today’s all-volunteer force, the Army also has done more than just adapt to changing social conditions. In some cases, it has taken a leading role in doing the right thing, such as ending segregation within units in the 1950s at a time when much of the country was still divided over the issue of race and implementing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” less than a year ago allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly.
Throughout it all, the Army has a proud record on the battlefield, thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of thousands of men and women who over the last 237 years have answered their country’s call. From the American Revolution to military actions around the globe and two World Wars to Korea and Vietnam to today’s War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has taken the lead in fighting this country’s battles.
During a Monday ceremony at Mount Vernon, where a wreath was laid on the tomb of Gen. George Washington, our first president and leader of the Continental Army created in 1775, Purple Hearts were awarded to three soldiers recently wounded in battle in the War on Terror.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh was among those who spoke at the ceremony, kicking off the Army’s birthday week celebration. His remarks are worth repeating:
“America’s Army, since the very moment of its inception, has been the greatest institution for good that the world has ever known,” McHugh said. “So let me say this: for all veterans who ever wore the uniform of the United States Army, and those who wear it today and into the future, thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for your service, thank you for keeping us and people who love liberty across this globe free. Happy birthday, U.S. Army.”