Today marks the 249th birthday of the U.S. Army, the first military branch established by a nation already at war.

Across the force cake-cuttings, birthday balls and various celebrations marking the occasion have already begun.

“Our motto is ‘this we’ll defend.’ Those words make clear what we owe the American people we will continue to keep that commitment as our Army has done for the past 249 years,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George in a birthday video message.

The senior enlisted soldier shared his remarks in the same video.

“Since 1775 U.S. Army soldiers have answered the call to service standing alongside one another to support and defend our Constitution, country and the American people,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer. “This we’ll defend.”

Historians mark the start of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775, when British troops and Massachusetts militiamen traded musket fire at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The battle drew in fellow colonial soldiers from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As a series of other skirmishes and battles erupted, the Continental Congress met on June 14, 1775, and established the Army.

“Resolved, that six companies of expert riflemen, be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia… [and] as soon as completed, shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army,” reads the resolution.

The delegates also wrote an oath of enlistment for soldiers volunteering for the new Army.

“I have, this day, voluntarily enlisted myself, as a soldier, in the American continental army, for one year, unless sooner discharged: And I do bind myself to conform, in all instances, to such rules and regulations, as are, or shall be, established for the government of the said. Army.”

The following day Congress appointed George Washington to command all the continental forces.

Those six companies of expert riflemen swelled to more than 8.2 million soldiers in its ranks at the end of World War II.

Over the past two and a half centuries the Army has transformed from the musket and horse to space-based technology and hypersonic weapons.

It even birthed another military branch when the Army Air Corps was disbanded to form the U.S. Air Force in 1947.

Happy birthday to the U.S. Army, and those soldiers, past and present, who have answered the call.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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