On June 14, 1775, 249 years ago, the Second Continental Congress founded a united army to bring the 13 colonies together in the fight for independence from Great Britain. The U.S. Army was officially born.

The Army was founded just months into the American Revolutionary War and predates the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Over its nearly 2½ centuries of service, the Army evolved from a ragtag militia hastily formed to fight against Britain to the largest branch of one of the most powerful militaries to ever exist.

Today, over 450,000 active-duty service members, as well as about 300,000 National Guard soldiers and 175,000 reservists make up the Army — the largest of the six military branches.

This year’s theme is “Honoring the Past, Defending the Future.”

US Army Celebrates 249th Birthday!

•On Friday, the Army officially turns 249. The birthday will be celebrated everywhere there are soldiers, particularly in the U.S. capitol region.

•The Army will honor fallen service members at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery with the annual wreath-laying ceremony beginning Friday at 9 a.m. This event is free and open to the public.

•The Pentagon will host the Army birthday cake-cutting and reenlistment ceremony Friday at 11:30 a.m. The event features 30 soldiers who will reaffirm their oaths to the Constitution. This event will be livestreamed online.

•The National Museum of the U.S. Army in Fort Belvoir, Va., will host the Army Birthday Festival on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event will include performances by the Army Field Band and demonstrations of Army vehicles and equipment, including a parachute demonstration. The museum will also be open to visitors during the event. Festival tickets are free but must be reserved in advance on their website.

•On June 18 at 5:30 p.m., the Washington Nationals will play their annual U.S. Army Day game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Nationals will be joined by Army leaders and personnel to mark the birthday and celebrate service members and veterans. Active-duty servicemembers, reservists and veterans are eligible for two complimentary tickets to the game, which can be claimed with a valid military ID at Nationals Park’s box office beginning at 5:30 p.m. on game day.

The Army also celebrates its history through weekly Twilight Tattoo live events, which are hosted Wednesdays between May and July at Joint-Base Myer Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va. This event sees performances by members of the Old Guard, the oldest active-duty infantry regiment, and the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”

Article courtesy of Stars and Stripes.