The following is written by LTC Allen West (retired), Executive Director, American Constitutional Rights Union and the Committee to Support and Defend. AMAC Foundation is honored to have ACRU as an FVOP Collaborator.
For those of us who are Soldiers of these United States of America, June is a very special month for us. No, I am not talking about any LGBTQIA+ stuff, rather, this is the month that our US Army was born. I remember an old Army recruiting song titled, “We Were There”. The words in the refrain were,
“When we were needed, we were there,
We were there when we were needed, We were there,
Tho’ it wasn’t always easy, It wasn’t always fair,
But when freedom called, we answered, We were there.”
The call went out for volunteers for a Nation being born in 1775, not too long after Men had taken to the field against the greatest military power known to man at the time. The Patriots who showed up at Lexington Green and Concord Bridge were not part of an official Army. They were simply militia Men, whom we would come to refer to as “Minute Men”, ready in a minute to protect freedom. But, the young Nation would need a dedicated Army to do the bidding of safeguarding the fledgling colonies. Therefore, on 14 June 1775 the United States Army was created, the first of our Armed Services.
Ever since that moment, for 248 years, there have been Soldiers of this great Nation who still answer the call. Some have been drafted into its ranks, others have volunteered, in my family there have been both. However, for most of that long and exemplary time of service there was something missing for my Army, for America’s Army…an official service flag.
Service with a flag
In the years prior to 1956, the Army was the only armed service without a flag, official or otherwise, to represent the entire service. Finally, in 1955, prompted by the need for a flag to represent the U.S. Army in joint service ceremonies, Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker requested the creation of an Army flag.
The U.S. Army flag was dedicated and unfurled to the public on June 14, 1956, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, on the 181st anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Army by the Continental Congress. I find it interesting that the Army flag was unveiled in Philadelphia, birthplace of the US Marines at Tun Tavern, November 10, 1775. The original flag measured 4 feet 4 inches (1.32 m) by 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m); the flag is of white silk with a blue embroidered central design of the original War Office seal. “United States Army” is inscribed in white letters on a scarlet scroll, with the year “1775” in blue numerals below. Also, at the top of the flag is a rattlesnake, harking back to the original Gadsden Flag that had the words, “Don’t Tread on Me”. The rattler on the Army flag has our official motto, “This We’ll Defend”.
And what an appropriate motto for the Country’s first armed service, for when the Army was born, there was no official United States of America. Truly, what the US Army, and our Navy and Marine Corps Brothers and Sisters, defends is an ideal, a belief in individual rights, freedoms, and liberty. It is not just about a territory, no, it is far more than that. It is why our Men and Women in uniform take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and bear true faith and allegiance to the same. The US Constitution is the embodiment of our Constitutional Republic, our rule of law, and the basis of comprehending the sovereignty and preeminence of the individual in America, over the institution of government…and how that relationship is to be regarded. On the trigger finger of my saluting hand is my US Army ring, inside of it is the inscription of the US Army motto, “This We’ll Defend”, lest I never forget my oath to the Constitution, and my resolve to do so for the American people. And one day, that ring will be passed to another Soldier, my nephew, currently Lieutenant Colonel Herman Bernard West III.
Happy Birthday US Army, June 14th
And so, I believe it is fitting that we celebrate Flag Day on the birthday of the US Army. And whether President Woodrow Wilson knowingly did so, it does not matter. Wilson created Flag Day in 1916, on June 14th, no, it is not a national holiday, it should be, but it was not included in the 1968 National Holiday listing legislation.
But how appropriate that the Army, born on June 14, 1775 whose official motto is “This We’ll Defend” should share our birthday with the day recognizing our American flag. After all, it was Soldiers inside of Ft. McHenry who ensured that the Star-Spangled banner kept waving during the bombardment of the British Navy in the War of 1812. That action inspired one Francis Scott Key to write the words that would eventually become our National Anthem. It was that Flag that draped the coffin of my Dad and Father in Law, both combat Veteran Soldiers, as they were laid to rest in Marietta and Arlington National Cemeteries. It is the same Flag that will drape my coffin when I am called to my final duty station.
There is a special relationship between the US Army and our Flag, it will always be. Soldiers, stand tall this June 14th and continue to honor our pledge to the American Flag…”This We’ll Defend”.
Steadfast and Loyal!