Gen. Dempsey at the 2011 Army Birthday Ball
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey addresses the crowd during the 236th U.S. Army Birthday Ball at the Gaylord Convention Center, National Harbor, Md., June 11, 2011.

Thank you Sergeant Major Chandler ... thanks for your leadership and for your continued service to our Army. We're absolutely blessed to have you as the 14th Sergeant Major of the Army.

Good evening everybody ... Deanie and I couldn't be more pleased to be here with you this evening. You may recall that several months ago in reflecting on America's role in the world, President Obama said this:

"Let us remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people as well as millions around the globe."

The history, traditions, and the legacies of our Army...the sacrifices that we and our predecessors have made...our commitment to the Profession of Arms...have mattered, not only to our fellow Americans but to millions around the world. That's what we celebrate tonight.

On June 14th, 1775, a year before the Congress signed the Declaration of Independence and exactly two years before the Nation adopted the Stars and Stripes as our national emblem, Congress made the bold decision to create the Continental American Army. In doing so, Congress staked the future of their countrymen on the Army and on its Soldiers. The character, the professionalism and the courage of the Soldiers of the American Continental Army shaped the nation; it made us who we are today...236 years ago.

You know, sometimes, it's best to understand who we are through stories about our Soldiers. In March of 1781, Private Peter Francisco joined Watkins' Virginia Cavalry Troop at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina. A veteran of five years and many battles, Francisco was wounded several times during the battle. He shrugged off his injuries and defeated more than a dozen enemy soldiers. General George Washington later said that 'without [Francisco] we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the War, and with it our freedom.' That's the stakes...that's what we do.

More than 200 years later, in 2003, Second Lieutenant Thomas Garner followed that tradition of courage and sacrifice. Lieutenant Garner was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq, and his heroism and leadership saved countless lives near the town of Ishaki (i-Shah-kee), north of Baghdad. Lieutenant Garner, now a Captain, was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor device. I am happy to say that Captain Garner and his wife Kathleen are here with us tonight.

Private Francisco and Captain Garner's actions remind us that our profession really is a calling...that our service really matters...not just to us but to our nation and truly to the world. Together"Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians, and our families"together we are the most decisive land force in the world. Wherever we go and whatever we do, our Army is a clear symbol of national resolve and commitment. We really are the strength of the Nation.

In a few days, our Army will move into its 237th year... We will continue to provide whatever it takes to achieve the Nation's objectives in the current conflicts. And, we will begin our march toward the Army of 2020.

So here's my observation as your 37th Chief of Staff: our past is glorious...our future is bright. I hope you are as proud of you and yourselves as we are of you! Thanks for what you do. I couldn't be more proud to serve with you.

Now it's my great pleasure to introduce a genuine patriot...a leader...and a champion of Soldiers, civilians, and families. Our Secretary of the Army, John McHugh.

Page last updated Tue June 14th, 2011 at 00:00