Well, Secretary McHugh, thank you. Gen. Odierno, Sgt. Major Chandler, distinguished guests and members and families of the greatest Army in the world today, and the 13 of you who are going to be re-enlisted who represent all of our soldiers and their families, both here and in harm's way around the world.
It is such a pleasure for me to be here today as we celebrate your 239th birthday, which, as a Marine, I have to admit, you are the oldest branch of the armed services.
You know, two weeks ago, as the secretary [McHugh] said, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when American soldiers -- soldiers, mind you, not Marines -- stormed ashore in the largest amphibious operation in history. As someone who is a proud Marine, let me just say, not bad. (Laughter.)
That was weeks of really tough, really close quarters combat. And it was followed by what in my mind was one of the most brilliant combined-arms maneuver operations in history, and that led to the breakout in Normandy beachhead and the dash across France, ultimately ending in Germany.
Now, while the Army was storming ashore in Normandy, around the globe, in Saipan, the U.S. Army, alongside U.S. Marines, were fighting on the Japanese-held island of Saipan. And at the very same time, in the China-Burma-India theater, Gen. Frank Merrill and his famed “Marauders” were raiding deep behind enemy lines. They marched 750 miles through the sweltering jungles, a little bit more sweltering than today, I might say, in the mountains of Burma.
That incredible versatility, fighting on the shores of France, fighting on the islands in the Pacific, fighting in the jungles in Burma, the ability to fight on any terrain, to carry out lightning strikes behind enemy lines, to storm through or maneuver around even the stoutest and strongest of defenses, is a hallmark of this Army.
Over the past 12 years, this U.S. Army has followed in the footsteps of all of those soldiers who have come before you and have served our nation so proudly and effectively. You have demonstrated the exact same versatility, the exact same adaptability, the exact same mission (inaudible)…getting the job done regardless of circumstances, and it didn't matter whether it was in the deserts of Iraq, or the mountains of Afghanistan, the jungles of the Philippines, or the dark alleys of cities in numerous countries around the world, whenever your nation has called, the Army has answered, and answered brilliantly.
You all know we confront very complex security threats and challenges in our world today, and our nation is going to require an Army that is just as adaptable and just as versatile and just as ready and just as lethal, an Army that can go anywhere, that can fight anywhere, that can defeat any and all adversaries wherever they may be, in any corner of the globe.
Secretary Hagel and I are absolutely confident that today's Army, the leadership, from Secretary McHugh and Gen. Odierno down, to the squad leaders and the squads, now in the combat operations of (inaudible) -- throughout Afghanistan and throughout the world today are going to continue to provide our Nation and our citizens wit just such a force. What an incredible claim you can make. It truly is an astounding accomplishment.
As both the secretary [McHugh] and the chief [Odierno] have said, for generations, our soldiers have been the strength of our nation. And for generations, American soldiers have demonstrated an unwavering dedication to our country and to all Americans embodied in the Army motto "This We'll Defend."
This is exactly what soldiers have done through this long period of war and throughout history, the 239 years preceding. You have defended our country's security. You have fought for your brothers in arms and sisters in arms. You've taken the fight to our enemies wherever they may hide. And along the way, you've added bright chapters to an already illustrious volume of battle honors.
The same principles uniting those freezing ill-clad soldiers at Valley Forge that the chief [Odierno] talked about and those who today patrol the mountains of Afghanistan, train foreign armies in Africa, Central and South America, and bolster our allies in Europe and Asia, the principle of duty, honor and country you live every day. You embody those words.
So to all of you dog-faced soldiers out there, and to all of those deployed around the world, along with our Army civilians who provide for our security, Secretary Hagel and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. All of you bear a heavy burden of protecting our country, as do your families who support you, but there is no greater public service in my view than what each and every one of you do everyday. I, like Secretary McHugh and the chief [Odierno] would like to thank the families.
I was born into a military family. I moved around a lot. I never really had a place to call home. And then I was married, and had a family on active duty, and I know how hard it is for a family to stay together, especially in the time trying of war. None of us could do our jobs without you, all of the families, and I thank you for the love and support you give your soldiers.
Now, a wise man once told me never stand between a soldier and a slice of cake. (Laughter.) So happy birthday. Happy 239th birthday to the United States Army, whose fighting spirit, patriotism, and unwavering zeal, I am absolutely confident will last another 239 years. So as a closing, I hope you will allow an old Marine to end by saying HOOAH! (Applause.)