Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh speaks delivers the keynote address at the 2014 Army Ball, National Harbor, Fort Washington, Md., June 21, 2014. (U.S. Army Photo by John G. Martinez)

Happy Birthday Army.

One of the many things I really enjoy about Army Birthday Week is it gives me a chance to get out of the Pentagon to talk to Soldiers, to hear their stories….your stories. After one of, I don't know, a dozen or so our cake cuttings this week, I had a chance to strike up a conversation with a young NCO, and she told me about why it was she decided to join the Army.

She put it very simply, she said her dad was her inspiration. Her father said that the Army would teach her leadership, and respect, and give her skills, and education that, as he put it, she couldn't get anywhere else. If she really wanted to make a difference, her dad told her, the Army was the only place to do it.

I was pretty inspired. So I asked her, what's your dad do?

She said, "well, he's in the navy."

Now we've got some Navy guests here tonight. One team, one fight. Ray Mabus mocks the heck out of me, so I got one back at him.

Beyond that one rather obvious mistake in his life, I think her dad got it pretty right. As I look across this room tonight, at each and every one of you, the Army has been building men and women of character -- leaders of our nation - for all of its 239 years.

Now, I'm an old man, but I'm not a stupid man. I don't want to be the only thing standing between you and the dance floor…that's just not safe…so let me close by saying how much I appreciate all that you do.

Every member of our Army Family -- each and every one of you - has helped write the 239 year history of this truly amazing force -- a history that at this very moment is still, at this very moment, being written in here at home, in Afghanistan, and more than 100 nations across the globe.

And make no mistake about it. Each and everyone are part of that long legacy of service, defending our nation and ideals and living, every day, the Army Values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

It's a pleasure. It's an honor to be here tonight, with so many members of our Army Family: Soldiers -- Active, Guard and Reserve -- Civilians workers and Family members.

And a special welcome to our Wounded Warriors, their families, and our World War II and Vietnam Veterans who have joined us for this evening's celebration.

I'm going to run the risk of overlooking some to try to introduce to you those we know are here. So, when I call your name if you could please stand and give us a waive so that we can thank you for the honor and respect you deserve.

Captain (Ret) Lonnie Moore; Lt. Col. Alan Echevarria, Dr. Michael Hardy, John Kuspa, Lenora Tolbert, William Eaglen, Ed Sullivan -- and representing the Greatest Generation -- Private First Class Joseph Frome - as well as their family members here tonight. And as I said, if we missed someone, please forgive us. It's not because we are ungrateful of the amazing service you've rendered.

Speaking of grateful. I'll close by telling you how grateful, how honored I am to serve as your Secretary. And I thank each and every one of you for your service, for your commitment and, most importantly, for listening to your parents, family, to your friends and most of all to your heart, and deciding to serve your country in the greatest land force -- the greatest force for good, the world has ever seen….your United States Army.

Happy Birthday Army!

Page last updated Tue June 24th, 2014 at 10:23