Today is the 236th birthday of the Army, a service as synonymous with the American story as any institution in the country. Name a pivotal moment in U.S. history and the Army was there.
It was there at the beginning, of course. George Washington, my vote for the most important man in the history of our country, was the first Soldier. He assumed command of a force of 27,000 men already facing the British in Massachusetts and New York.
In 1804, Army Captain Meriwether Lewis and his co-commander William Clark began their famous trek across the continent. Both were sons of Revolutionary War Soldiers, both had been in the militia and had served in the Army. Lewis was still on active duty when tapped by President Jefferson to lead the expedition.
During the War of 1812, Major George Armistead held Fort McHenry despite a barrage of over 1500 rounds from the British Fleet. His decision to raise the 42 foot long garrison flag at dawn not only inspired the writing of the National Anthem, it also convinced the British that Baltimore could not be taken.
The Mexican-American War.
The Civil War.
The Great War.
World War II.
The Army was always there.
And now, as the country fights two wars simultaneously, the Army continues to serve and sacrifice. The morale of its Soldiers is high, despite a nagging concern that America has lost its passion – certainly its focus – on their continuing sacrifices. Yet they fight on, not unlike their predecessors who fought a long war in the earliest days of our nation.
But today’s Army is different than the one led by General Washington. It is professional. It is well-equipped. It is the most powerful and effective army ever seen on the face of the earth.
But at its core, its Soldiers carry the same divine spark and passion for liberty as the millions who have served before, and that is a legacy to be celebrated.
Happy birthday, Army.