By Rich Greene –
Every year when I get a new calendar I flip to June and write “Army Birthday” on the line or block for June 14th. This year it’s written in a black Sharpie and outlined with yellow highlighter. It’s small, but it’s my way of honoring and remembering the history and recognized birthday of my service, the U.S. Army, because the makers of this calendar sure didn’t.
If you look at the square for June 14th on the calendar on your desk or on your iPhone you’ll see that day has an observance tied to it. A holiday, but not one where the banks close, gifts are exchanged or Hallmark cards are geared for. Printed for all to see in the third row down, on the Thursday block for June 14th, 2018 on the Staples desk calendar are the words “Flag Day (US).”
OK, Flag Day is cool. While not what I’d consider really well known, I grew up knowing about Flag Day probably more than lesser known holidays in the 1980s like Arbor Day or Earth Day. Flag Day has a history Alexa or Google will tell you about at the drop of a hat, starting with the resolution by the Second Continental Congress on June 14th, 1777 to establish a national holiday for a young nation.
Interestingly though, if it wasn’t for what the First Continental Congress did on that same day two years earlier in 1775 there would never have been a Flag Day resolution.
While there’s no written record of exactly what happened that day, historians agree that John Adams saw what was ahead with the war for independence, and proposed that his colleagues adopt…well, claim would be a better word, the local and state run militias throughout New England into a regiment that would stand united against the British. The Massachusetts militia was on the frontline in and around Boston, and they had no sure guarantee that militia from other states would come to their aid.
At the time the United States as an entity, with the ability to rule and make laws, didn’t exist and therefore had no real army to order anywhere. The individual states were able to raise militia, and Adams saw that uniting men who were already (or soon-to-be) engaged with the British, giving them a leader and finding funds to pay them was one of the only ways the colonists stood a chance at breaking away from King George and the British empire.
So on June 14th, 1775 John Adams proposed the First Continental Congress established an army of 10 companies of “expert riflemen.” These companies were immediately filled by men from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland as they marched toward Boston to help the Massachusetts militia. The next morning, the Continental Congress appointed George Washington to command the new army and he assumed his command outside Boston on July 3rd, 1775.
Many of us grew up hearing stories of revolutionary war history and can probably remember things like “One if by land, two if by sea,” “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” and “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.” But what we may not know is that if John Adams hadn’t suggested creating the army when he did, history could have turned out very differently.
So as you look over the month of June on your calendar and see “Flag Day” there on June 14th, write Army Birthday next to it in big bold letters because if it wasn’t for the army there would be no flag day to celebrate. Happy 243rd Birthday United States Army!