DALLAS HQ – Col. Juan Saldivar, the ranking military officer at Exchange headquarters, gave the following talk today as associates gathered to celebrate the Army’s 243rd birthday. Saldivar is command engineer in the Real Estate Directorate:
Mr. Shull, Ms. Middleton, Mr. Stevens, EVPs/SVPs, distinguished guests, Exchange leaders, fellow service-members, and most importantly, Exchange Associates and employees. Good morning to all of you and thank you for coming to our celebration. I am deeply honored to join with all of you as we celebrate the 243rd Birthday of America’s Army!
Since its establishment in 1775 – more than a year before the Declaration of Independence – the U.S. Army has played a vital role in the life of America. Its struggle to win independence for our republic was an arduous, 8-year ordeal, with victory unlikely. That life-or-death struggle, against the world’s most powerful nation, was fought on the basis that government’s legitimacy stems from the consent of the people. Britain had denied the colonists representation in Parliament, and in the wake of colonial resistance the British enacted a series of measures known as the Intolerable Acts, including the closure of Boston harbor and the dissolution of the colonial legislatures. In response, the colonists formed a shadow government. In Massachusetts it was known as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and it controlled the rest of the colony outside Boston.
Beginning on a village green and a bridge
When it was revealed that this shadow government possessed weapons stores in Concord, the local British commander ordered his men to destroy all munitions and arrest the offenders, essentially stripping the colonists of their means of self-defense, but the colonists fought back. On April 19, 1775, they met the British at a place called the village green in Lexington and the Old North Bridge in Concord in what became the first battles of the revolution.
Militia units and volunteers quickly converged on Cambridge and formed the New England Army of Observation. By May, the Continental Congress had convened in Philadelphia to unite the remaining colonies to the cause of liberty, and on June 14, 1775, it passed a resolution establishing the fledgling Continental Army, America’s first national institution.
With the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the Continental Army became the United States Army.
Army: to fight tyranny
It’s a nice history lesson, but why does it matter? Simply put, it matters that America’s FIRST NATIONAL INSTITUTION was established specifically to fight tyranny!
That we still have people, volunteers no less, dedicating themselves to the self-evident proposition that government exists to protect our unalienable Rights, endowed by our Creator, specifically Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – natural rights – is simply amazing! It is NOT the contrary proposition, popular in some quarters, that says we get our rights from government – we don’t! And we stand united to ensure that our government continues to belong to the people, rather than that characteristic of tyrannies, in which the people belong to their government!
Our Declaration of Independence spells out these natural rights and government’s purpose, and we still look to it as the first organic law of the United States. Writing in January 1861, Abraham Lincoln, drawing from scripture (Proverbs 25:11), referred to the Declaration’s principles as “apples of gold” framed by “pictures of silver,” by which he meant the Union and the Constitution. In essence, these “apples of gold” represent the purpose of our nation – of everything we strive to be.
Principles and political realities
It has always been and always will be a struggle to realize these principles, because fallible people are always a product of their times and have need to account for contemporary political realities along the way. Some of these realities are overcome by the force of law or by time, such as with women’s suffrage or civil rights, while others can only be resolved by blood and tears, such as the question of slavery, which was only resolved by the Civil War and passage of the 13th Amendment. Sometimes we face existential threats, like Nazi Germany, Global Marxism and Communism, and religious extremism that seek to wipe away our notions of liberty – to destroy our “apples of gold.” In all these cases, America has confronted its challenges by direction of the will of the people working through our constitutional order. For to bypass that constitutional order as a means to an end, even one that some believe to be noble, is to snuff out our “apples of gold” as surely as the other evils we have conquered thus far.
These principles are at the heart of why we fight. Even those who don’t really understand these principles or where they come from do understand that we want to give our children something better than what we inherited. It is why Americans still readily answer the call to sacrifice, so that our nation, though far from perfect, may stay on the road to perfection. That our children, and our children’s children, may one day yet reach for those “apples of gold” and America might yet be that shining city on a hill.
There are many nations today that count themselves free, but there is only one counts the natural rights of its citizens as its very purpose – ours! To that I say, “God bless America, and God bless the United States Army.”
Editor’s Note: To see how Exchanges celebrated the Army’s birthday, check out the Exchange Post’s June Flickr album. Check back as more pictures start flowing in from throughout the world.