On June 14th 1775 the Continental Congress authorized the enlistment of soldiers for 10 companies of infantry. From that humble beginning the United States Army has been part of the tapestry of the United States for 237 years.
For most of its history the Army was a small volunteer force backed up by the Militia forces of each State. In major conflicts it was expanded by the mobilization of militia and the recruitment of volunteers, both Regular and State and during the latter part of the Civil War men were conscripted by the use of a draft. This was repeated during the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
Its battle honors are many. Saratoga and Ticonderoga, Princeton and Trenton, Valley Forge, Cowpens and Yorktown helped secure our freedom from England. The Army was an integral part of the nation’s westward expansion and actions against the British in Canada and against Mexico at various times. It was divided during the Civil War as men who had fought together in Mexico and had served on the Frontier declared their loyalty to the Union or their home States. The conflict was the deadliest in our nation’s history with over 600,000 American Soldiers from the North and the South dying in battle. The battles are legendary but to most modern Americans unimaginable. Names like Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Cold Harbor, the Seven Days, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, First and Second Bull Run, Chickamauga, Petersburg, Appomattox Courthouse and Gettysburg became etched into our history.
The Army would serve overseas in Cuba at San Juan Hill and at Manilla during the Spanish American War, over a half million Americans would serve in France during the First World War as part of the American Expeditionary Force under General John “Black Jack” Pershing. It was blooded on the Marne and St Michel and though less experienced than it’s British and French Allies it learned fast and became an effective fighting force. After the war it was reduced in size and the Army was expanded again in 1940 as war clouds gathered in Europe and Asia and in the Second World War 90 Divisions would be formed to battle the Germans, Italians and Japanese. Millions of Americans who served in the Army became part of what we know as the “Greatest Generation” and following the war would lead the country even as Soldiers continued to guard the perimeter of freedom during the 40 years of the Cold War.
Called on again the Army served in Korea and then Vietnam. Those were thankless wars that took a bitter toll on the Army and the men and women, both volunteers and draftees who served. It became an all volunteer force in 1974 when the draft was ended. It served in the 1980s in areas closer to home at Grenada and Panama and in 1990 even as it was drawing down in numbers it sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in 1991. It served in Somalia and Haiti and was part of the NATO actions in the Balkans and provided a shield to Kuwait during the 1990s.
Following the attacks of September 11th 2001 the Army has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers have served in those wars, many having deployed numerous times.
Many Americans who have led our nation as civilians, in government, industry and in the struggle for civil rights are veterans of the Army. Presidents, legislators and Supreme Court Justices have worn Army blue.
Today the Army remains engaged in Afghanistan and is working to prepare itself for whatever the future will bring. Soldiers train, deploy and fight every day. Army families have stood by their Soldier’s since the beginning of the nation.
I served the first 17 1/2 years of my military career in the Army, the National Guard and Army Reserve. Though I am in the Navy now I can say that I was once a Soldier.
Happy Birthday to all those who serve and thank you to all that have worn the uniform of the United States Army.