Army Birthday Celebration
Secretary of the Army John McHugh delivers remarks in the Pentagon Courtyard as part of the Army's 239th Brithday Celebration, June 19, 2014. (U.S. Army Photo by John G. Martinez)

Thank you.

Happy Birthday Army. It's a great day as the Chief said and I'd be remiss if I didn't thank all of you for once again joining with us in the very important celebration. Some of the assistant secretaries, members of the AR Staff, command staff, Vice Chief of Staff, Soldiers, both those in the back who labor in the halls of this building each and every day to support great Soldiers like we have here in the front row who, as the Chief said, are going to continue on their important mission. We're also particularly honored that the Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work has so graciously taken time out of an incredibly busy schedule to share in this celebration and to impart a few words to us. Mr. Secretary welcome, we deeply appreciate your being here.

It's a long history. History starting in 1775. A point we all know and have heard time and again is older than the very nation we serve. And today, once again, we celebrate, what as the Chief described as an incredibly rich, incredibly storied history, not just of America's Army. But when you think about that history it's more importantly about the men and women who proudly have worn the uniform.

And while we take time to celebrate this happy occasion and think back and commemorate all that the United States Army has done in the 239 years that it has so selfishly served, I'd like to if I might remind ourselves of three other important Army anniversaries that occur this year as well.

It was 200 years ago, this year, that Francis Scott Key wrote the words to what became our America's national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, as he stood witness to Lt. Col. George Armistead and the United States Army's defense of Baltimore's Fort McHenry against British bombardment in what became known as America's Second War for Independence, the War of 1812. He penned the famous line, the flag was still there. And it was Army forces that made it so.

And 150 years ago this very week - in fact, this past Sunday -- when then Secretary of War Edwin Stanton signed an order designating Arlington as this nation's first National Cemetery.

And ever since that time, under Army stewardship, Arlington National Cemetery has stood as a solemn reminder of the true cost of war, and the debt our nation and our people owe to those who for 239 years have donned the uniform of the United States Army.

And just two weeks ago, the world marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. And as the Chief mentioned, along with the Chief, of course President Obama, Secretary of the Navy, my friend Ray Maybus, and thousands of others, I was proud to attend the ceremonies in France as the world paused to remember.

As President Obama said during his remarks on that day, we came to Normandy not "just (to) commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are. We don't just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is. We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril. We come," the President said, "to tell the story of the men and women who did it so that it remains seared into the memory of a future world."

That story the President spoke about has been written and told time and time again throughout your history, throughout the Army's history. From Concord to Gettysburg, from the Argonne Forest to Pork Chop Hill, from Normandy to Ganjgal, and places and battles both large and small. Throughout that time, through our 239 years, generations of American patriots -- those we celebrate this very week, during this birthday-- have stepped forward in service to this nation, to its people, and perhaps most of all, the principles and ideals when they've said time and time again, "Here I am. Send me."

A few years ago, we began a new tradition for Army birthday week. Each June, we begin our commemorations and celebrations at the home of our Army's first Commander-in-Chief, General George Washington at Mount Vernon.

During this year's observances, I read a general order that Washington first issued to his troops on the very day Congress declared our independence from Great Britain.

Washington wrote that "the time is now near at hand which (will) determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves…whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed and they consigned to a state of wretchedness which no human efforts will probably deliver them."

"The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army."

The courage and conduct of Washington's Army made this nation free, and for 239 years, you, this Army has honored that legacy by defending freedom and keeping peace wherever and whenever the call has been raised. That is a legacy, your legacy, that is embodied both in the memory of all that have worn that proud uniform and throughout our history, have served this nation as they do today across the world.

So, Happy Birthday Army.

God bless all of you, God bless America, and God bless this great and glorious Army that keeps us free.

Page last updated Fri June 20th, 2014 at 00:00