Celebrating the Army's 242nd birthday and Flag Day

6/6/2017

The U.S. Army's birthday this year marks 242 years this fighting force has been defending the U.S. Flag and the freedom is symbolizes.

Founded June 14, 1775, the U.S. Army celebrates 242 years of bravery and sacrifices in protecting our great nation. Not only is June 14 the U.S. Army's birthday, it's also appropriately Flag Day.

A look back at the origin of the Army

Organized by the Continental Congress, the U.S. Army introduced new professional standards to long-standing militia traditions to fight the most powerful nation at the time - the British Empire. During these turbulent eight years of battle, the Army often served as the lone beacon for which patriots and champions of liberty united and drew their inspiration.

Although the colonists had already exchanged shots with British troops at Concord and Lexington in April of 1775, it was militia units and other volunteers from the New England colonies, not an official U.S. Army, who fought those battles. The Continental Congress convened in May, with the delegates voting to create an army that would serve all the North American colonies.

Then, on June 14, 1775, the Continental Congress passed this resolution:

"Resolved, that six companies of expert riflemen, be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia;... [and] that each company, as soon as completed [sic], shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under command of the chief Officer in that army."

"The Continental Army became the fledgling country's first national institution."

Following this resolution, the Continental Army became the fledgling country's first national institution and remains in place as the oldest. Once established, the new fighting force needed an able commander, and so a few days later, the congress voted unanimously to commission George Washington as commander in chief.

After fighting hard for eight years, the Continental Army forced the British to recognize the sovereignty of the colonies, leading to the creation of the United States of America. In June 1784, the newly formed U.S. Congress disbanded the Continental Army and discharged its remaining soldiers, except for two companies they needed to protect military arms and stores. These two companies formed the basis for the 1st American Regiment. By the end of the year, eight infantry and two artillery companies formed the whole of the U.S. Army.

Now, 242 years after its creation, through numerous wars, missions and operations, the Army continues its mission to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Waving the flag proudly

The Stars and Stripes are the most recognizable symbol of the United States. Most people know the stars represent the 50 states and the 13 red-and-white stripes stand for the original colonies that revolted against the British and laid the foundation for our great country.

However, many people aren't aware of what the colors symbolize. While there's no federal law, resolution or executive order that explicitly lays out the reason or meaning for the flag's color, we do have some insight into their significance from a 1782 report from Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Army, according to the Washington Post.

"White signifies purity and innocence," Thomson wrote. "Red hardiness and valour and Blue...signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice."

Despite the widespread belief that Betsy Ross designed the original flag, few historians believe this story, according to USFlag.org. While no one knows with absolute certainty who created the first flag, the general consensus is that Congressman Francis Hopkinson designed it. The flag has undergone many different alterations and additions as the country grew in size. However, it wasn't until President William Taft signed an Executive Order on June 24, 1912, prescribing the order of the stars and the proportions of the flag. 

Various state and local communities began holding Flag Day celebrations around 1885, but it wasn't until 1949 that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th as National Flag Day

As we remember the history of the U.S. Army and the U.S. flag, let us make sure to remember those who have given their all so that the Stars and Stripes remains flying high. 

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