By Adrienne Anderson, Belvoir EagleJune 16, 2016
Fort Belvoir celebrated the Army's Birthday Tuesday in front of Garrison Headquarters. June 14 marks the U.S. Army's 241st birthday, alongside Flag Day, which celebrates the 240th anniversary of the American flag.
"It marks the American colonies' decision to raise an Army to defend what became our inalienable rights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," said Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings, project executive officer for PEO Soldier, and event guest speaker.
The Second Continental Congress authorized an Army, which started with the New England militia groups and soon included a militia from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, Cummings said.
George Washington became the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
"He led a poorly trained and barely equipped force against the most powerful and experienced military in the world," Cummings said. "Throughout our six-year battle for freedom, especially in the early years, there were frequent defeats and all-too-rare victories. But, the upstarts of this early Army demonstrated what the right leaders, the right training and a commitment to selfless service can achieve -- culminating with the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781."
The ceremony included a Soldier's historical timeline of the Army presented by Gus Person, Fort Belvoir volunteer installation historian.
"Since the birth of our Army … Soldiers have defended freedom and fought on the behalf of the American people all over the world," Person said.
Six living historians portrayed Soldiers in various uniforms since the Army's conception, he said. Many wore authentic uniforms, except for the boots, from the eras they represented.
"(They) represent four centuries of service to the nation," Person said. "They portray Soldiers in campaign in full marching or combat order."
Today, the Army is one of the most integrated and diverse institutions in American history, Cummings said.
"Today's Army stands ready to continue a proud tradition of defending our nation by preventing conflict through credible deterrence and power project," he said.
There are more than 185,000 Soldiers serving in more than 140 countries, Cummings said.
"Your Army has answered the call of duty for 241 years," he said. "It's history, even older than the founding of our nation. I ask that you join me in celebrating this milestone and take the time to reflect on what the Army means to America, from its humble beginnings, through past conflicts to the mighty force it is today, and look forward to the future. I'm personally glad to know that the Army -- America's Army, your Army -- will be there to defend our nation wherever and whenever called."
Phyllis Mitchell, a new Belvoir resident, attended the birthday party with her nearly 7-year-old granddaughter, Rylea.
"PaPa is in the Army National Guard," Rylea said, referring to her grandfather, as she almost finished a piece of birthday cake.
"We moved here in February from Minnesota and enjoyed this celebration," Mitchell said. "The best part was the living timeline of Soldiers. It was awesome to see … all the flags … it's a gorgeous day."