On this day 237 years ago, in 1775, the United States Army was formed when the 1st Continental Congress placed the militia at Boston under its control and authorized 10 additional companies of riflemen to be raised. The American troops were preparing for a major conflict with the British military, which at the time, was the most powerful fighting force in the world.
Several weeks later, on July 3, 1775, George Washington accepted his appointment as Commander in Chief. Even though America had not formally declared its independence yet--that came in July 1776—the Continental Congress organized for what it knew would be a difficult struggle against King George III’s forces.
Since 1775, the United States Army has undergone enormous change, and it has served in numerous conflicts around the globe. Each year the Army celebrates its birthday and each soldier has a unique experience with the annual celebration.
Stephanie Disney, who served as an Army military policeman from 2003-2008 —including a combat tour in Iraq—fondly remembers the celebrations each summer.
“Every year we recognized the Army’s birthday, whether we were in the United States or overseas in Iraq. I attended celebrations at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri] where I was stationed and we always took the time to celebrate and recognize the occasion, no matter how busy we were.”
Other soldiers like Captain Benton Merkel, who now serves in the Army Reserve after serving five years in the 82nd Airborne Division, also has fond memories of the Army’s summer birthday.
“When I was at the Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill [Oklahoma] in 2005 after I first joined the military, the instructors brought out a huge cake for the Army’s birthday. They talked about the history of the celebration, and how we were all part of something so much larger than ourselves,” he said. “When I went overseas to Afghanistan, we still took time to celebrate. We had small cakes and a barbeque. It was fun taking the time to remember the Army’s birthday amidst all that we had going on.”
Today, there are over 1 million soldiers serving in the Army’s active duty, National Guard, and Reserve components.
When the Army first formed on June 14, 1775, they were initially poorly funded and ill-trained, but that has changed over time. Today, the United States Army is the world‘s premier high-tech fighting force.
Today’s celebration of the Army’s birthday is a welcome pause in the day-to-day activities for many troops, veterans and their families at home and on American military bases around the world.
Jeremy Stevens is a Nebraska-based freelance writer.