By Michael NorrisJune 21, 2010
The Army celebrated its birthday Tuesday with a cake cutting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol denoting 235 years of service to the country. The event, occurring in the United States Senate's Russell Office Building, brought together Army leaders, members of Congress and other well-wishers who toasted the Army, touted its beginnings and wished it well in the future.
The ceremony included a performance by Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's 3rd U.S. Infantry Army Drill Team, which executed its precision rifle toss. Other Soldiers from The Old Guard were on hand in separate corners of the room dressed in period costume representing Soldiers from different eras and a string quartet from the Army Band played elegant music, with Master Sgt. Jonathan Deutsch of the Army Chorus singing the national anthem. In opening remarks, Gen. George W. Casey, chief of staff of the Army, quoted President Barack Obama as saying the Army represents the "best of America," with its "values," "ethos" and "people."
"These are ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things for our country," Casey said. "I'm proud that generation after generation there are more people willing to sacrifice." John McHugh, secretary of the Army and a former congressman, spoke next, saying he was glad to be back home on Capitol Hill. Acknowledging the power of the purse that Congress wields, McHugh said the Army had some great ideas and initiatives, "but without funding we're not going to be able to do much of it." He thanked several Congressional leaders in attendance for their support, singling out Sen. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Sen. James Inhofe (Oklahoma) and U.S. Rep. John Carter, a Congressman from Texas.
"If there had been no American Army, think of what the country would be like today," McHugh pondered. Because of its existence, he said, "hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people have had the luxury to breathe in freedom."
"This is a happy occasion to say thanks to the men and women that have served our country for two and a half centuries," he concluded.
Inhofe, who just returned with Casey from a visit to Kuwait, said that as a draftee, there was a time he never thought an all-volunteer Army could be such an effective force. He explained how when he moved from the House of Representatives to the Senate, he found no similar Army caucus in the chamber, so he and his colleague, Akaka, created one, to better look out for the interests of the service.
Carter, following Inhofe, recalled being in Normandy this past Memorial Day, and how he and his wife walked by the headstones of those who perished in the beach landing.
Carter praised the Army's ability to reinfuse itself through its 235 years. "Everyone talks about the greatest generation," he said. "I like to think that every generation of U.S. Soldier is the best we've ever had."
A performance by the Army Drill Team followed the speeches as a pre-lude to the cake cutting, with the room becoming so quiet the only thing heard was the percussive whooshes of air as five Old Guard Soldiers repeatedly tossed and twirled bayoneted rifles in air, then caught them, palms smacking wood stocks and gun metal in unison - a sight that mesmerized all who watched. It was so quiet you could have heard an Army lapel pin drop.
"It's the birthday of the Army," said Cpl. Brett Allan of The Old Guard's Alpha Co., enthusiastically. "Who wouldn't be here now if the Army hadn't started out and kept going."