WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 11, 2015) -- Despite high humidity and temperatures in the 90s, hundreds of Soldiers and civilians turned out in the Pentagon courtyard June 11 to help the Army celebrate 240 years of history.

Pizza, chicken wings and a 5-foot by 3-foot cake awaited well-wishers who were entertained by the sounds of the Army Band.

Following the National Anthem, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel B. Allyn took center-stage to open the ceremony. The general said it was an exciting time to be a Soldier, to be part of the greatest land force in history -- one that remains a rock of stability in an unpredictable world.

"For the last 240 years, our Army has defended the nation against all enemies foreign and domestic," he said. "Today, we have over 140,000 Soldiers committed in more than 150 locations around the globe, serving in defense of freedom and democracy."

Allyn said that after 13 years of war, the Army remains strong and continues to attract and retain the nation's most talented young men and women. He pointed out a group of 16 active and Reserve Soldiers whom he would re-enlist during the ceremony.

"It's a great day to be a Soldier; and more importantly, what a great day to serve Soldiers," he said.

"We have a deeper bench of combat-seasoned veterans than at any time in our nation's history," he continued. "The Army has been and will continue to be the premier institution for building leaders of character for the nation. Through our Soldier for Life program, we ensure our Soldiers can achieve their full potential throughout their Army journey and sustain their contributions as they transition into their communities with transferable skills, access to education and their most vital contribution: values-based leadership."

Allyn concluded his remarks by expressing continued support to families who have lost their Soldiers in combat and to wounded warriors and their supporting families.

"Ultimately, our Army is about people and we understand that the strength of our Soldiers is our families. We honor in particular our Gold Star families and thank them for their enduring sacrifice to our nation," he said.

"God bless our wounded warriors and their supporting families," he said. "We are all committed to supporting you and remain inspired by your examples. We gain strength from your inspiring example of resiliency each and every day."

Army Secretary John McHugh relayed the story of the Army's creation by the Continental Congress, 13 years before the Constitution was ratified.

The secretary said when the Revolutionary War against Great Britain broke out in 1775, the 13 colonies didn't then have a common Army. But on June 14, 1775, the 27,000 independent militiamen from Massachusetts and New York were formed into the Continental Army. A day later, Virginia planter George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of that Army.

"Today, as we pause to celebrate the 240th birthday of our Army, we should rightfully reflect on that incredible legacy of selfless service that has been handed down generation after generation from Washington and his fellow patriots to us," McHugh said. "Let's dedicate ourselves to the hallmark of that first Army for their courage, integrity, selfless devotion to duty and their professionalism."