Today is the 244th birthday of the U.S. Army, which means the army is a little older than the United States itself.
Here's a sample of 27 U.S. Army quotes I've compiled over the years. They include things well-known leaders said, quotes from ordinary soldiers, and a few sources that make clear why the focus on effective leadership we find in the U.S. Army is so important.
1. "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
2. "We were at war. I wanted to do my part."
Stephen Kraft, who joined the army at age 28 after 9/11. (Kraft was one of several soldiers in this compilation who were quoted in a special report I worked on for Stars & Stripes on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.)
3. "I love 'Joe.'"
- U.S. Army captain, to me, explaining why he stayed in the army after several deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan
4. "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country."
- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
5. "I can at least go out and defend my country and do something honorable as a father. Show my son something good."
Joshua Hernandez, who joined after 9/11, and deployed to Iraq twice.
6. "I thought to myself, 'Join the army!' It's free. So I figured while I'm here I'll lose a few pounds."
--John Candy, from Stripes
7. "I just wanted to do something to support those young people."
--Matthew Niblack, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran who joined the National Guard as a sergeant with an age wavier in his early 50s and deployed to Kuwait.
8. "This is all normal, routine stuff. Dude with the AK that I shot in the street? That's routine. The dudes digging an IED? That's an everyday occurrence."
An Army lieutenant whose platoon I embedded with in Iraq in 2007
9. "Discipline is the soul of an army."
10. "Front toward enemy"
- Extremely brief and practical advice on an M18 claymore mine
11. "I'd do it all again if I had the chance."
Zachariah Chitwood, a veteran of the U.S. Army who was wounded in Iraq.
12. "At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with a M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire ... Seeing a Jihadist loading an RPG launcher, Sergeant Bellavia gunned him down. ... Sergeant Bellavia then came under fire from the insurgent upstairs and the staff sergeant returned the fire, killing the man. ... Sergeant Bellavia pursued, but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs. ... Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position. ... In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist's throat."
- Silver Star citation for David S. Bellavia, Iraq, whose award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor later this month
13. "I'd learned a lot in the Army. I knew that above all things in the world I had to become so big, so strong that people and their hatred could never touch me."
Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Pretty much the entire U.S. Army.
15. "They've got us surrounded again, the poor bastards."
- Gen. Creighton Abrams
16. "9/11 changed the entire direction of my life."
- Fred Wellman, who had served as a helicopter pilot in the Army and rejoined after September 11 to serve as a public affairs officer.
17. "It took me another 18 months to convince my wife to let me join the Army National Guard. We had two small children, so it was a very hard decision
- Joel Bottem, a veteran who rejoined after 9/11
18. "It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech."
- Zell Miller
19. "The most striking thing I have seen throughout my almost four years of service are the NCOs who are willing to do anything for their soldiers. ... It's amazing to have and know people who are willing to go out of their way for you."
-- Stephanie Schneider, Afghanistan veteran
20. "The sergeant is the Army."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
21. "My answer is bring 'em on."
- President George W. Bush, talking about insurgents attacking U.S. military members in July 2003
22. "I'm very happy with how it all played. I was very blessed. That was my idea, to go to enlist, do one tour and fight and get out."
-- David Kaefring, U.S. Army veteran of Afghanistan
23. "So far, I've spent my entire adult life fighting."
-- James Coleman, U.S. Army sergeant
24. "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
-- Colin Powell
25. "Lead from the front."
Audie Murphy, most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II
26. It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.
- Norman Schwarzkopf
27. "What can we do to support the troops? Give them a nation that is worthy of protection."
- Two-tour Army veteran who emailed me when I was writing an article for The Atlantic in 2007