Today marks the Army’s 239th birthday. On June 14, 1775, more than a year before our nation declared its independence from Great Britain, the Continental Congress established the Continental Army and began a rich heritage of defending this country.
The National Guard traces its lineage back to 1636 and the original colonial militias, but the Army’s birthday marks a distinctly American beginning to our armed forces.
Two hundred thirty-nine years later, the Army continues to serve with the same distinction and purpose for which it was originally founded – ensuring the nation’s freedom from tyranny, oppression and fear and ensuring liberty for our citizens.
We’ve come a long way as a nation since 1775 – securing our independence from the British crown, keeping the nation together during the dark days of the Civil War and protecting American borders and frontiers. The Army was the backbone of victories in the 20th century’s two world wars, and it served valiantly in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.
The National Guard is the Army’s primary combat reserve and has been a key component of the Army’s success and heritage over these 239 years of service to our country. It was minutemen who fired “the shot heard ‘round the world” at Lexington during the American Revolution, and it was state militiamen who answered the call to form the Union Army in the Civil War.
The Wisconsin Army National Guard has shared this heritage since 1848 when Wisconsin became a state.
The vaunted Iron Brigade was made up largely of Wisconsin’s volunteer infantry regiments, and the state would ultimately send 91,000 men to fight for the Union. That figure represented almost 12 percent of the state’s total population at the time.
Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers were there in France during World War I, when the 32nd Division earned its nickname, “Les Terribles” and pierced every German line it faced.
The National Guard was once again critical to the Army’s efforts in World War II, when units from around the country mobilized into federal service to fight wars in Europe and the Pacific. The Red Arrow again did its part and spent more days in combat than any other American division, as it fought through the jungles of New Guinea and the Philippines.
Today the National Guard continues to serve nobly in the wake of September 11, 2001. In Wisconsin, every Army Guard unit, and more than 13,000 Guardsmen have deployed in support of operations in the Global War on Terror. The National Guard was instrumental in allowing the Army to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously.
There is no substitute for land power when defending our nation. Our Army is exceptional and we are proud to share this rich heritage. Today’s Army National Guard is a national treasure, and remain “Always Ready, Always There.”