Army 250: Lifting up the U.S. Army’s Story

By Dan Vallone, Founder of Army 250

The Army was America before America was America. On June 14, 1775, more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was issued, the U.S. Army was born. On this date, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that created a national Army of “six companies of expert riflemen” that was to join the forces gathered near Boston. 

The Army’s story is thus America’s story and the Army’s history is America’s history. The Army’s story extends far beyond battles, forts, and the institution itself. The Army has influenced—and in turn been influenced by—all facets of American life and culture, from fashion and food to technological innovation, business management practices, and religious traditions. This makes the Army’s story one relevant for all Americans, irrespective of one’s direct relationship to the Army itself. 

In June 2024, I launched Army 250, a citizen-led effort to encourage communities across the country to engage with the Army’s story as we approach its 250th birthday in 2025. Just as institutions across the country are gearing up for the country’s 250th anniversary in 2026, there is an opportunity to harness the Army’s 250th as a milestone moment to engage Americans in learning about and commemorating our shared history. There are already important institutional efforts focused on the Army’s 250th, led by the National Museum of the United States Army and the Army Center of Military History, but there is not yet an effort focused on activating American civil society, educators, and others who can be part of this storytelling project. Army 250 is intended to provide such an outlet. 

Why should state and local organizations care about the Army’s 250th?

As with the nation’s 250th, the Army’s 250th anniversary presents a unique opportunity to engage Americans of all backgrounds and views in a shared story of our history. Critically, given that the Army has historically been among the largest and most geographically distributed institutions, there are millions of state and local stories where the Army plays a role. The Army quite literally has been everywhere Americans have been. Whether we look at the historic development of bases and forts throughout history or at the evolution of the National Guard and Reserve components, the Army has had an enormous presence at the state and local level. These stories are ones that state and local historical organizations are uniquely positioned to tell. 

Similarly, the Army has played a unique role in shaping local, state, and national identity. Serving in the Army has long been a critical element in our story of E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.

It has been central to the progress we have made as a nation in expanding and deepening the reach and meaning of freedom and equality to all Americans.

The Army’s Chaplain Corps played an important role in breaking down barriers for Jewish Americans to participate more equally in American life, for example; and Black Army veterans played critical roles in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s.The Army’s story also reflects our nation’s broader failures to uphold and extend our founding principles to all people; the Army was more racially integrated at the end of the Revolutionary War than it would be until post-World War II, for example. 

Ever since the Army shifted to an all-volunteer force in 1973, it has grown more remote for many Americans. Although people hold the Army in high esteem, it is not a relationship with a lot of depth in most cases. State and local institutions, by lifting up stories at the community level where the Army played a key role, can close this gap and build out a deeper relationship. 

How can you get involved?

There are lots of ways to get involved in Army 250. 

First, sign up, share, and contribute to the Army 250 project. This will be a central hub for ideas, stories, and resources. Recent stories include articles on the Army’s Chaplain Corps and its influence on religious pluralism; the Army’s role in Juneteenth; and a piece from Richard Scarry’s son about how the Army shaped his father’s work.

Second, add Army 250 to your state and local US 250 planning. The Army’s history and story are natural elements for state and local commissions to include. There are institutional resources, such as the National Guard, that could be partners for any Army 250 work. Similarly, there are many veterans and military family groups distributed across all the states; such groups could also be partners. 

Finally, engage educational partners. High schools and universities make natural partners for Army 250. There are Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs throughout the country. Similarly, there are Junior ROTC programs in every region of the country. These programs are often looking for partners to provide unique educational resources and experiences. 

I am also more than happy to be a resource for ideas. Please email me at dan@army250.us

At a time when it feels like Americans can’t talk to each other, the Army’s story is one we can all hear. Every American has a place in the Army’s story. The Army belongs to all of us. It is Our Army. State and local institutions have a unique and critical role in telling this story, and we hope to hear from you as we approach 2025.