REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- The Continental Congress approved June 14, 1775, the establishment of the U.S. Army comprising an amateur, all-volunteer, cobbled together force from various New England militia companies that would grow to become one of the most well respected and recognizable forces in the world today.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command celebrated the U.S. Army's 244 years of continuous service to the nation while also commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. This year's birthday theme is "America's Army: Honoring the Call to Service from D-Day to Today."

"The Army is the oldest institution in America, born more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, and here we are celebrating 244 years of service to our country," said Col. Joseph McCallion Jr., SMDC chief of staff. "Today is a time to honor all the great things the Army has done to uphold freedom. Not only for our country, but how it has advanced freedom across the globe.

"This year we are reflecting on June 1944 when D-Day occurred and the massive invasion of the European continent by allied forces to get a foothold and liberate Europe from the hold of Nazi Germany," he added. "Today is absolutely important for us to take a moment and reflect on our history, our heritage and our veterans. It is always great to have veterans from wars in the past to remind us of why we do what we do. It is important for us to recognize them and thank them for their service and acknowledge that we are where we are today because of their sacrifices."

Retired Maj. Gen. Grayson D. Tate, former SMDC commander, and six combat veterans from the Floyd E. "Tut" Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville joined the command during the observance. They were Richard Barker, Carl Dow, Gary Hallman, Charles Hedgecock, Conrad Inamorati and James Skinner.

One of the veterans present at the ceremony spoke of his service and what it meant for SMDC to honor it.

"Today is very special," said Hallman, who served as a door gunner with the 281st Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam. "Happy Birthday. We are enjoying this, and we appreciate this. It is important to support our vets; they need it."

Another guest thanked everyone for honoring the veterans and making them feel welcome.

"Today is remarkable," said Inamorati, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. "It means a lot for us to be here. Today is a great birthday."