WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 11, 2015) -- Senior Army leaders gathered in the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center, June 10, for the first of several cake-cuttings throughout the week in celebration of the Army's 240th birthday, which falls on June 14.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno kicked off the cake-cutting, making several points to the audience of congressional and senior Army leaders and their staffs and guests. He emphasized that the Army was born before the country's independence had even been declared.

"I believe the Army is the one service that truly represents the diversity and strength of our nation," he said. "Our regular Soldiers, our citizen-Soldiers, our dedicated Army civilians … represent what is best about our country … our diversity and our ability to understand why our nation is different from any other nation in the world because of the freedoms and liberties we fight for."

Odierno thanked Congress for its continuing support and dedication in ensuring the Army has the "right capabilities, equipment and manpower to do the jobs" the country calls upon it to do throughout the world, adding that presently the service represents the United States on all but one continent.

Army Secretary John M. McHugh also thanked Congress for continuing support and praised what he called the unbroken line of great Americans, who donned the cloth of the U.S. Army, which stretches back 240 years. He reflected on the chief's words about the steadfastness of those serving, the dedication of diversity of countrymen, scattered in some 40 nations at some 150 locations worldwide.

"… Doing as they've always done, protecting us, defending freedom and ensuring our way of life … and that's why we're here … that's not a surprise … we're gathered to celebrate that history and that tradition and remember how unbreakable that long line has been."

Before the traditional champagne toast, Senators Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Rep. "Dutch" Ruppersberger of Maryland also spoke, recalling personal and professional relationships with Odierno and McHugh, who will both retire later this year.

Inhofe thanked the Army leaders for their candidness during their years of testimony on Capitol Hill. With a smile, he added "the Army's 241st birthday won't be as happy as the 240th."

Following the cake-cutting, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey spoke about how the country received its "credentials" by the founding fathers as they were creating the U.S. Constitution and calling for a standing Army, an Army, which would protect the interests of the nation.

"Our credentials became the American Soldier," he said. "I remind Soldiers all the time that they are the nation's credentials - that they're one year older than the nation you serve and you must be here and forever endure because that's our job: to always endure."