The Army celebrates June 14 1775 as its birthday. On that day, the Continental Congress called for ten companies of expert rifleman to be formed. The day is also in effect the birth of America’s first Infantry. These men came from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia comprising the 1st Continental Regiment. Within two months they were in contact with British troops around Boston harassing the redcoats with long range rifle fire.
At first, the 1st Continental Regiment were considered elite troops by George Washington and excused from the ordinary details their militia peers performed. After their first drunken riot the 1st Regiment pulled detail just like the rest of the fledgling Continental Army. A little over seven years later, the Continental Army (along with our French allies) defeated the best Army in the world at the Siege of Yorktown and secured the nation’s freedom. This role has become the cornerstone of the Army mission and self-identity reflected in its almost unknown motto, “This We’ll Defend!”
240 years later the Army’s history is the nation’s history having fought and filled the central role in all of our nation’s wars. The Army flag when adorned with its 188 campaign streamers weighs about 30 pounds. The Army long ago adopted a tradition of primarily displaying campaign streamers because to commemorate every battle would have made a flag too heavy to lift considering each campaign often consists of several battles.
The Army is the nation’s oldest and largest service. Over a million soldiers alone have made the ultimate sacrifice paying more than 80% of the nation’s bill in blood over our 238 years. Despite the Army’s singular and seminal contribution to the nation it is also the most modest and egalitarian.
Paraphrasing Major Rhett B. Lawing (USAF) summary of Carl Builder, a senior operations research specialist at Rand Corp who wrote “Masks of War” the often quoted study on American military strategy and culture described Builder’s perspective of Army culture as:
”the Army, as the most altruistic of the services, worships at the altar of the “country” through selfless service and personal sacrifice… Despite its inarguable importance to national defense, the Army has often been forced to accept and adapt to massive force structure cuts and loss of capabilities due to national budgetary concerns. This has created the ability to find ways to accomplish assigned missions without the resources normally deemed necessary to complete the task.”
If the Army were an animal, it would be best represented as a sheepdog. A selfless servant to its flock, the wolves only deterrent and from a distance looks an awful lot like one of the flock.
So on this Army Birthday and Flag Day, and just like every day, we can be assured that the Army is living up to its motto, “This We’ll Defend”. Happy 240th Birthday US Army.
Picture from Va.Gov