WASHINGTON -- While at a cake-cutting ceremony to mark the service’s 245th birthday, the Army secretary said a cake is a remarkable, fitting symbol.
A cake is a combination of different ingredients that is placed under intense heat, he said, but later results in a spectacular creation.
“The Army recipe is similar: where people from every corner of the nation come together and in the face of great challenges, achieve the extraordinary,” Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said Friday.
This is even more relevant today, he said. The Army currently has over 178,000 Soldiers deployed around the world. Soldiers have also surged to hotspot cities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and Army scientists are working around the clock to develop a vaccine, he added.
And, most recently, Soldiers have helped the voices of peaceful demonstrators be safely heard in cities across the nation.
“I am incredibly proud of the bravery of our men and women,” he said, “and the work that is being done here and abroad.”
McCarthy and other senior leaders spoke during the ceremony at the Pentagon, which was part of several traditional birthday events held virtually last week.
While the seats inside the auditorium were empty this year, the spirit of diversity was fully present.
During the ceremony, seven Soldiers of various cultural backgrounds walked onto the stage to recite a vow to serve the nation longer.
“American Soldiers represent the diversity of America,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, who administered the oath of enlistment. “And they represent the very best of America.”
Regardless of someone’s race or ethnicity, the general said the Army must provide positive command climates where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect.
“We win by doing the right things, the right way,” he said. “We win by building cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined and fit. And we win through our people.”
The Army’s history is full of Soldiers who served beyond the call of duty. One of them was Sgt. William Carney, who fought in the Civil War for the Union Army.
Carney, who was born into slavery and later became the first black Medal of Honor recipient, was there for his squad when it counted, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston.
During the Battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina in 1863, Carney rushed to catch the American flag from falling after his unit’s color guard was fatally shot.
While under fire, Carney planted the colors and despite being shot twice himself, he still removed the flag when troops had to move back.
“He put his nation, his freedom and fellow Soldiers first,” Grinston said. “Just like all of you that are serving the nation now, you put people first because winning matters.”
The Army birthday, which is Sunday, is not only simply about capturing its legacy, McCarthy said, adding there is also earnest hope in the year to come.
“Birthdays are more than just a celebration of the years that have passed, but also a nod to the future. The opportunity for growth and the determination for change,” he said.
One thing, though, that will certainly remain is the Army’s mission.
“For 245 years, the Army has safeguarded democracy and defended the nation against the threats we faced,” McCarthy said. “That is what we do best. Every time the nation calls, no matter the threat, the Army always responds.”