By J.D. LeipoldJune 14, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 13, 2012) -- Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III paid a call on Capitol Hill, June 13, but underwent no "grilling" by lawmakers as to the state of the Army.
Instead, the Army leaders shared with Sen. Daniel Akaka, of Hawaii, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, a birthday cake in celebration of the Army's 237th birthday.
Before introducing the secretary, the vice chief opened the cake-cutting celebration with a reminder to Soldiers, family members and Senate staffers in the audience, that leadership was "not focused on the institution itself, but the people, because the Army is about people ... not the weapons, not the vehicles, it's about our people and I know the same is true for our secretary."
McHugh, who became the 21st Army secretary in 2009, opened his celebratory comments joking that, "it's always great to be back on this side of the Potomac, particularly when I'm not a witness for anything."
The secretary said that once a year, the Army sets aside a week of celebration to commemorate its long and storied history. He called that history "237 years of making a difference," not just in the nation, but across the planet. The Army, he said, brings goodness, freedom and opportunity to people less fortunate.
"It's also a time for us to simply say 'thank you.' Thank you to the American people for the great support they give us each and every day on behalf of our Army, the Soldiers and their families," McHugh said. "But it's also a time to say thank you, in my opinion, most importantly to our overseers right here on Capitol Hill."
It is the work of lawmakers, McHugh said, that allows the Army to function in its defense of the United States.
"It starts and ends right here on Capitol Hill, and blessedly for us since the formation of the Second Continental Congress, right up to this day of the 112th Congress, this Army has grounded strength, grounded support, and ultimately has, I think, found much of its success because of the great work that both the House and the Senate have provided for each one of our 237 years. Thank you for the support you've given."
Before the celebration's end with the cake-cutting, Army veterans and senators Inhofe and Akaka each took the opportunity to express their thanks for those who had served and those who still serve with the Army.
Drafted in 1943, when he was just 17 years old, Akaka served with the Army Corps of Engineers in Saipan and Tinian in the western Pacific until 1947. He later became a teacher and high school principal. He has served in some capacity, in federal service, for 69 years. He had decided not to run for reelection this year.
Citing special guests -- nine wounded warriors and their families in the audience -- Akaka extended an "aloha" to all saying, "in this case, aloha means love to you all."
"It has been the people of the Army that has been the strength of our nation and so I'm delighted to be here to extend my aloha to them all," Akaka said. "I am deeply moved with your service to our country and for joining us today in this celebration of the Army birthday. Your service and sacrifice is an inspiration to all of us, so thank you."