By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (June 15, 2011) -- As part of recognition for the Army's 236th year of protecting the United States, the service's leaders thanked members of Congress for their continued support of Soldiers.
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, himself a former congressman from New York's 23rd district until he was tapped by President Barack Obama to run the Army -- thanked his former colleges for their continued support during an Army birthday celebration at the Capitol Visitor's Center, June 14, 2011.
"We on the so-called 'fun side' of the Potomac deeply appreciate the leadership and the support that you bring us," McHugh said. "I used to feel very passionately as a member of the House and the House Armed Services Committee about our role and oversight and our role that the men and women in uniform receive all they needed. Now that I have had a chance to witness the fruits, the benefits of that effort, I value it even more deeply."
McHugh talked about recent events that make him appreciate the work of the Soldier even more -- and the success of the Army.
"Within the last few weeks I had a chance to walk without body armor in the Arghandab Valley -- a place where you probably wouldn't roll without an M1A1 Abrams (tank) not too many months ago," McHugh said. He said the relative safety he witnessed there was a result of the "great achievements that our men and women are making" in Afghanistan.
Later, he said, inside the United States, he visited the flooded areas along the Mississippi in America's south and saw the Army Corps of Engineers "working to battle back the ravages of nature -- saving not just lives but saving whole communities."
And in the Philippines, he said, he met with Army Special Operations Soldiers who work with the government there to protect the Pacific basin by ferreting out the terrorists who are there.
"Time and time again, through history -- yes through 236 years -- but each and every hour of each and every day your Army is out there making us all safe," McHugh told lawmakers.
He finished by clarifying his message: "One, happy birthday U.S. Army, and two thank you U.S. Congress."
The Army's senior-most Soldier, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had spoken earlier and brought attention to the fact the U.S. Army existed before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. He cited the Congress as having put its faith in the Army to protect the then nascent republic.
"This Army of ours had its birth one year before the Continental Congress actually signed the Declaration of Independence," Dempsey said. "What does that tell you? This thing called the Continental Congress actually put the future of our country, the future of our countrymen and our very freedoms in the hands of the Army, 236 years ago. Since that day we have been trying to live up to that trust and confidence."
Also speaking were Sen. James Inhofe of the Senate Army Caucus, and Rep. John Carter and Rep. Silvestre Reyes, both of Texas and both leaders in the House Army Caucus.
"We should always, before we go to bed at night, thank the good Lord above that we are blessed with the kinds of human beings that are willing to serve in the United States Army and have been willing to serve since the history of our land," Carter said.
Following words from Army and congressional leadership, Soldiers brought out a birthday cake -- which was ceremoniously cut by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, McHugh, Dempsey and lawmakers.