By: Robert Hastings

As the sun rises on June 14, 2024, marking the 249th birthday of the United States Army, I find myself reflecting on my four decades of military service to this great nation. From dusty training grounds to foreign battlefields to disaster relief and homeland security missions, I’ve witnessed the resilience, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment of the American Soldier. But what does it truly mean to serve the greatest nation and its people?

General Douglas MacArthur once said, “The Soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” These words resonate deeply with those who have worn the cloth of our nation. We understand the cost of conflict, the physical and emotional toll it exacts. Yet, paradoxically, we embrace our duty to protect and defend, even when war is our necessary duty.

While I didn’t attend West Point – I’m an Officer Candidate School mustang myself – I recognize how the West Point motto “Duty, Honor, Country” echoes through time. These three words encapsulate our purpose as Soldiers. Duty calls us to stand guard, to face danger head-on, and to safeguard liberty. Honor demands integrity, loyalty, and selflessness. And country, the very soil we defend, binds us together in a shared purpose.

Our nation today grapples with political divisions that seem insurmountable. The chasm between ideologies widens, and vitriol fills the airwaves. Fueled by election cycles, partisan media and deliberate disinformation aimed at our populace, it sometimes feels like our better days are behind us. The most horrible of words – civil war – have become normalized. Yet, as I reflect on my service, I realize that what unites us remains stronger than what divides us, and that the future of our nation, our people and our way of life is secure.

Across these dividing lines, Americans still hold shared convictions, love of family, pride in our heritage, and a desire for a better future. Americans respect the principle that justice should be impartial, regardless of ethnic, social or financial background, and in the presumption of innocence. We believe in individual liberty, and cherish our unalienable rights to free speech, religion, and assembly. Americans are a resilient people, who come together to overcome personal challenges and national crises. We are a generous, kind and caring people, who are known around the globe for our compassion. And yes, Americans are still in our hearts patriotic, even when we disagree among ourselves and with our government.

These threads of unity weave through our diverse tapestry and strengthen the very fabric of American society.

I am proud that I responded to a noble calling from a noble nation. While I am often thanked for my service, it has always been my privilege to serve a nation worth serving.

Old Soldiers may fade away, but their legacy endures. Soldiers – along with our brothers and sisters across the Armed Forces – are the highest development of citizenship – offering their lives for their country.

So, on this Army birthday, I salute my fellow soldiers, past and present. We serve not only a nation but an idea; an aspiration that transcends politics and binds us as one. May our shared purpose continue to light the way, reminding us that, despite our differences, we are united by duty, honor, and love for the greatest nation on earth.


About the Author

Robert T. Hastings is the Principal, Robert Hastings & Associates, a leadership and communications consultancy focused on the aerospace, defense, and mobility sectors. As a veteran C-Suite advisor, Hastings is a proven leader, business executive, strategic communicator, author and veterans advocate with a track record of success spanning a forty-year multifaceted career in military, corporate leadership, and public service.

A decorated combat helicopter pilot, Mr. Hastings is a retired Brigadier General from the Texas Military Department who successfully commanded U.S. Army and state military units from platoon to brigade level, completing more than 40 years total military service.

Mr. Hastings served in the Administration of President George W. Bush as Principal Deputy/Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, where he was the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense and senior Administration officials for strategic communication, public information, and internal information, leading a worldwide public affairs community of some 4000 military and civilian personnel.

In his civilian career, Hastings is an award-winning business executive who has successfully led the communications, marketing and government affairs teams for several Fortune 100 corporations.