Happy Birthday, Army (Updated)

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Tomorrow your Army, the U.S. Army, will be 238 years young,

Young because compared to the ages of armies of other nations, our Army is still a child. But there is nothing childish about our Army’s capabilities — by far the best Army in the world.

Army birthday celebrations started a little early today with a wreath laying at the tomb of the Continental Army’s first general, George Washington. This solemn event marks the start of a week of festivities honoring the Army and its members.

Army birthday wreath

Surrounded by several hundred visitors at the Mount Vernon estate of George and Martha Washington, Secretary of the Army John McHugh placed a wreath at the crypt of America’s first president.

Join this (relatively young) Air Force retiree in wishing our Army a Happy Birthday and please read the following bit of history about this great Service provided by the Army News Service and contributed to by John R. Maass of the U.S. Army Center for Military History:

When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, the original 13 colonies did not have a shared army, but instead, a collection of independent colonial militias.

The first battles of that war were fought April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Mass., by patriots of the Massachusetts militia. They were the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first hostilities between the colonies and Great Britain.

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and as British troops moved back across Massachusetts toward Boston, colonial militia from around New England began massing around that city. Within days, thousands of militia members under the leadership of Artemas Ward of Massachusetts had Boston under siege.

boston battle

After the British rout from Lexington, a loosely organized New England army of volunteers and militia laid siege to Boston. The British commander, Sir Thomas Gage, determined to gain more elbowroom by seizing the Charlestown peninsula. Learning of Gage’s plans, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety recommended the occupation of Bunker Hill, a commanding height near the neck of the Charlestown peninsula. But a working party of 1,200 Americans, sent out on the night of June 16-17, 1775, instead fortified Breed’s Hill, a lower height nearer Boston.

By May 10, just weeks after hostilities began in Massachusetts, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. On the agenda: creating a common army to defend the colonies.

A month later, on June 14, the Congress approved the creation of that army, the Continental Army. The new force was made of those militiamen already gathered outside Boston, some 22,000 of them, plus those in New York, about 5,000.

The following day, the 15th, the Congress named Virginian George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and named Ward his second in command the following day.

The Congress also resolved to form a committee “to bring in a draft of rules and regulations for the government of the Army,” and voted $2 million to support the forces around Boston, and those in New York City.

Congress authorized the formation of 10 companies of expert riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, which were directed to march to Boston to support the New England militia. These were the first troops Congress agreed to pay from its own funds, and the units later became the 1st Continental Regiment.

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Lead photo: From left, Army Col. Arthur Wittich, the oldest soldier serving in the Military District of Washington; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Segla, the youngest soldier serving in the Military District of Washington; cut the Army’s birthday cake during a ceremony marking its 238th birthday at the Pentagon, June 13, 2013.

Update:

Some words from Chuck Hagel and General Odierno:

Chuck Hagel, himself an Army soldier:

“You could also say it’s the 1 percent that bears all the burden…That’s true. There is still an outstanding respect for our military in society even though they are disconnected, probably more so than at any time in the history of this nation…” He attributed the great respect for the military to the values that have shaped it and the sacrifices that have been made, especially by Army families, who he said “are not covered in great glory or attention, but they deserve as much recognition and thanks.”

Noting former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s words that the first orange he ever saw in his life came from an American soldier, “The Americans troops were marching into this German village, and every German citizen was scared to death, thinking they would be massacred,” Hagel said. “And the American troops hugged these children and gave them chocolate bars and oranges.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who noted the service began as and remains an all-volunteer force, always ready to sacrifice everything when the nation calls — no more so than during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he said more than 2.5 million soldiers have served, said:

“Over 600,000 have deployed three, four, five, six times…Over 4,800 soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, over 35,000 have been wounded, but over 15,000 medals of valor have been handed out.”

Read more here

Photos and image: U.S. Army

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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