PHILADELPHIA–As Soldiers, families, civilians, and veterans around the world celebrated the Army’s 247th birthday Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Donna W. Martin, the Inspector General of the Army, administered the Oath of Enlistment to 23 new recruits at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
As the recruits raised their right hands and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, they did so in the city where the Army and its history began and where its future and story now continues.
In her keynote remarks Martin reflected on the Army’s history and its journey from a few hundred riflemen, to a diverse and inclusive force mirroring the nation. She discussed how the Army’s diversity strengthens its resiliency and ability to fight and win.
“We celebrate this diversity always, but in June, we honor it during Army Heritage Month,” said Martin. “During this month, we recognize the achievements, contributions, and sacrifices of veterans, Soldiers, families, and civilians.”
Martin went on the recognize several veterans in the audience, including Herman Richardson, a Vietnam veteran; Harry Jung, a World War II veteran and Congressional Gold Medal Recipient; and John James, who–at 102 years–is the Army’s oldest second lieutenant. James’ own Army story, one overshadowed by racial discrimination, came full circle in 2018 after he received the commission he was denied after completing Officer Candidate School during World War II.
As she talked about the sacrifices and contributions of those who served, and the Army’s path to inclusivity, she emphasized the Army’s commitment to its people.
“Putting people first means the Army and this nation win by building positive command climates and reducing harmful behaviors, such as extremism, racism, sexual harassment and assault, and domestic violence,” she said.
In March, the Department of the Army Inspector General, led by Martin, began the New Soldier Experience inspection. The NSE represents an unprecedented inspection of all systems, processes, and experiences of the Army’s newest Soldiers.
“Now more than ever, we must identify best practices and solutions to issues that harm our Soldiers and their families. First-term Soldiers are our most at-risk population. They are new to Army culture, new to their assigned installations, and not yet fully integrated within their organizations,” said Martin. “This inspection intends to identify prevention-oriented approaches and policies that reduce the frequency of new Soldiers’ exposure to or participation in harmful behaviors.”
After outlining the Army’s continuing modernization efforts and new technology integration, Martin concluded by honoring another monumental day—Flag Day—which America celebrates on June 14th.
“We honor this flag today and always, just as we honor our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, members of the Coast Guard and the Space Force, and their families, and civilians. Always defending 24/7. People first. Readiness matters. Army strong.”
Tuesday’s event was part of the Association of the United States Army Penn & Franklin Chapter’s Army Birthday celebration.
The event concluded when the oldest veteran and the youngest newly enlisted Soldier in attendance ceremoniously cut a birthday cake to celebrate the Army’s 247 years of always defending. Guests then sang the Army song as the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps played in the background.