Secretary Harvey, General Schoomaker, Sergeant Major Preston, civilian and military officials, veterans, families, distinguished guests.
To the men and women in uniform here today or watching on television across the globe, I thank you for your truly outstanding service to our country. You are doing noble work. And we are deeply grateful to you.
I am delighted to be here to celebrate the birthday of the United States Army. It's always enjoyable to celebrate anything that is older than I am!
In fact, I've got a message for the Army: sometimes things only get better with age.
Indeed, I'm happy to say that--even well into its second century--the U.S. Army is becoming more flexible, more innovative, and better prepared to tackle future challenges.
Of course, such a bright prognosis seemed anything but certain back in the Army's earliest days.
I recently read a book about George Washington who, before he was President, was the first Commander of the Continental Army. He feared that the task might be too great for him. And indeed the Army endured years of misery and setbacks.
Continental soldiers always seemed one misfortune away from defeat. They faced rampant shortages--of food, supplies, medicine, and ammunition.
Yet the United States would not be here today without the courage and tenacity of those citizen-soldiers who against all odds--and despite all of the hardships--followed through on the simple vow: "We will be free."
This has been the Army's calling ever since. It has made its mark in history in engagements so storied that they can be summoned to our consciousness by the mere mention of their names:
* Bunker Hill;
* Enduring Freedom; and
It was the United States Army whose Rangers parachuted into Kandahar in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
It was the United States Army that sent the 101st Airborne to tackle the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan, and whose Third I.D. made the Thunder Run into Baghdad with a speed and audacity that caught the enemy by surprise.
It was the United States Army whose Fourth I.D. pulled Saddam Hussein from a spider hole.
And it is the United States Army that every day is going on the offense against the violent extremists who killed 3,000 innocent people on September …