In my last six years as Secretary, I have learned that there are at least two things that are certain in life. Number one, there is trouble somewhere and the Army will certainly be there. And number two, there is an Army Birthday celebration outside, and it will be hotter than hell. You've proved me right again.And it is for that reason particularly, that I appreciate all of you turning out here today. Senior leaders from OSD, our ever-faithful, always-there assistant secretaries of the Army, general officers SESs, Soldiers, those who are scattered about the audience, and the 16 before us who will soon re-enlist and continue their devotion to duty, and to our Gold Star families, who as the Vice Chief of Staff said, we can never recognize too much, or do too much for.It's a great opportunity for me once again to be here as your Secretary to commemorate yet another birthday party for the United States Army.And as well at my age it's always unusual to be at a birthday party where someone -- or, in this case something ---- is older than I am. So at least I have that going for me.As we all know, the American Revolutionary War broke out back in 1775, the original 13 colonies didn't have a common army. Instead, they fielded a collection of independent militias.In the first actions back then, in support of our independence - at the battles of Lexington and Concord in April, 1775 -- it was the patriots of the Massachusetts militia who then engaged the all-mighty forces of Great Britain.And as British troops moved back across Massachusetts countryside towards Boston, colonial militia from around New England began massing around that city.Within days, thousands of Massachusetts militia members under the leadership of Artemas Ward of Massachusetts had the city of Boston under siege.Then on May 10th, just weeks after those hostilities began, the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia had on its agenda the creation of a common army to defend the collective colonies.One month later, a date known to us all - June 14 - Congress approved the creation of that army, the birth of that Army, the birth of your United States Army. The new force was made up in those initial days of those militiamen already gathered outside Boston, some 22,000 of them by that time, plus those in New York, totaling about 5,000.And on the day after the creation of the United States Army, the Congress did perhaps one of the greatest acts of its history, and formally named a Virginia planter, George Washington, as the first commander-in-chief of that Continental Army, and named Atremas Ward his second in command.
Today, as we pause to celebrate the 240th birthday of our Army, we should rightly reflect on that extensive legacy of selfless service that's been handed down by generation after generation by Washington and his fellow soldiers and patriots to us.And while we're at it, let's also rededicate ourselves to the hallmarks of that first army - first and foremost courage, integrity, selfless devotion to duty and country.Our Army exists to win the Nation's wars - to shape the battlefields as well as the minds of our enemies -- and to do so in such a way not to prepare and encourage future wars, but rather that future wars might at all be avoided. All of you should be incredibly proud of the Army's well-earned reputation for dominating the battle spaces we're called upon to attack and defend.Never were those qualities more on display than on the beaches of Normandy, some 71 years ago this very week. And as you all know, on that day, American soldiers, along with those of our Allies, conducted the largest amphibious military assault in history and began the long push of Hitler's Army back into Germany, and ultimately to defeat.Of that mission, Army General Dwight Eisenhower said of his Soldiers: "The tide has turned. Free men of the world are marching together to victory."Since then, ensuing generations of Soldiers have continuously served towards the Army's lifelong commitment to excellence and to virtue.And each June, this June, as Soldiers and the world over celebrate the birth of this Army, we pay tribute to that long line of militiamen and the illustrious legacy that has been so graciously handed down to us.As always, this past year has been one of distinguished service here at home and as the Vice Chief of Staff noted, in 150 locations across the globe. Like so many years before, the last 365 days has been a period of continuous challenges that in spite of it all, has brought out the very best in your Army, because you brought out the very best in you. You held true over the last 240 years. Your continued courage and mastery of complex and chaotic environments have literally made a difference in the lives of millions.Never forget that you and your fellow Soldiers create stability in an unstable world, and you continually reinforce America's and the Army's reputation for setting standards of excellence.
Liberty has always been purchased by valiant men and women of deep conviction, great courage and bold action.So, on this, your 240th birthday, to every Soldier past and present, be proud of who you are and what you've done, and what you continue to do. Your fellow Americans -- the world -- are deeply grateful for your service and sacrifice.God bless you. God bless America. And God bless this great and glorious Army that keeps us free.
Happy 240th birthday Army!