On June 14, 1775, our nation’s leaders established the Continental Army. The hodge-podge of farmers, shopkeepers, tradesmen and scholars of America’s Continental Army faced a well-trained, well-equipped professional British Army. The odds were not in their favor, but our Soldiers made up for what they lacked with enthusiastic patriotism and fervent dedication to the ideals of freedom.
In the 1860s, our Army was called to defend and expand freedom through its service in the Civil War. While President Lincoln proclaimed emancipation to the slaves, it was America’s Army with boots on the ground that enacted it. Freedom followed in the footprints of our Army as it defeated the rebellion and reunited our nation.
Freedom followed in the footprints of our Army again in World War II as it liberated Europe from the grip of Nazism and island-hopped across the Pacific to defeat the Japanese empire. A few years later, many of those same patriots fought back the Chinese in the bitter cold of Korea. I salute those Army heroes of World War II and the Korean Conflict, my parents’ generation.
Today, our Army is engaged in the cause of freedom in nearly 150 countries around the world, with more than 93,000 Soldiers deployed and 95,000 forward stationed.
We have the best equipped, best trained and best led Army in history - 1.1 million professional Soldiers who serve in the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard who still carry the same patriotism and devotion of the Soldiers of the Continental Army.
But our Army is made up of more than the men and women in uniform. Our Army is supported by civilians, equipped by civilians, transported by civilians, and led by civilians.
Our 278,000 Army Civilians are committed to serving the nation. They take the same oath as Army officers and members of Congress, solemnly swearing that they will support and defend the Constitution.
Since the Army transitioned to an All-Volunteer force, our Army Civilians have assumed increased levels of responsibility and greater authority. And our Soldiers aren’t the only ones who deploy. More than 23,000 Civilians have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.
I’ve witnessed first-hand, and I’m sure many of you have seen this, the deep, heartfelt appreciation that this country has for its men and women in uniform — spontaneous applause for the troops as they walk through airports, the surprise on a service member’s face after learning a stranger has picked up their restaurant check — there’s no question in my mind Americans are deeply grateful for what our Soldiers do.
Why do our Soldiers receive such attention? Our Soldiers have earned it. They’ve earned it through their military expertise, their sacrifice and their honorable service.
In 1775, even before our nation was formed, the people placed a special trust and confidence in its Army. And, in all points of its existence through the last 237 years, the Army and the nation has kept its promises with the American people:
America’s Army will defend the Constitution and the people of the nation. The Army is entrusted by the citizens of our nation with the survival of the nation. We are not just another part of the government; we are a profession preserving and defending the Constitution that set our nation apart.
On the Army’s birthday, I’d like to thank every Soldier, civilian and Family member who has ever served in our ranks for their dedication to duty and selfless service that has made us Army Strong.