You know, we are so fortunate to have Secretary of the Army Fran Harvey, and Chief of Staff of the Army Pete Schoomaker, and Sergeant Major Preston serving our country, and I want to acknowledge that.
Now when Pete mentioned the three veterans that are here representing the veterans, I didn't see them. Can they identify themselves? There we are. Thank you! (Applause). God bless you.
We have senior civilian and military officials, veterans, families, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
To the men and women in uniform here today, and any of those watching on the Pentagon Channel around the globe, I certainly want to join in thanking you for your truly outstanding service to our country. You're doing noble work. And we're so deeply grateful to you. And future generations will be in your debt.
I'm delighted to be able to be here to celebrate the birthday of the United States Army. The finest army on the face of the earth. Let there be no doubt about that! Of course, it's always enjoyable for me to be able to celebrate something that's older than I am.
In fact, I've got a message for the Army: sometimes things get better with age.
And indeed, I'm happy to say that--even well into its 231st year--the U.S. Army is becoming more flexible, more innovative, better prepared to tackle the new challenges that we face.
Of course, such a bright prognosis seemed anything but certain back in the U.S. Army's very earliest days. I recently was reading a book on General George Washington who, before he was President, of course, was the first Commander of the Continental Army.
He feared that his task might be too great for him. And indeed the Army endured years of misery and setbacks.
Continental Soldiers always seemed to be one misfortune away from defeat. They faced terrible shortages--of food, of supplies, of medicine, ammunition. And George Washington, of course, was within inches of being fired as a failure.
Yet the United States would not be here today, as it is, without the courage and tenacity of those Citizen-Soldiers who against all odds--and despite all of the hardships they faced--followed through on the simple vow: that "We will be free."
This has been the Army's proud calling ever since its earliest days. It has made its mark in history in engagements so storied that they can be summoned to our consciousness by the mete mention of the names:
* Bunker Hill;
* Ia Drang,
* Enduring Freedom; and
* Iraqi Freedom
It was the United States Army whose Rangers parachuted into Kandahar in the earliest days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
It was the United States Army that sent the 101 st Airborne to tackle the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan, and whose 3rd ID made the Thunder Runs into …