97 Years of the Navy Reserve

navy birthday 96
navy birthday 96

In the history books of the U.S. Navy, countless tales of gallantry begin and end at sea. But not all of them.

After 97 years, the U.S. Navy Reserve stands ready to serve.

It was March 14, 1969, when Lt. Joseph Kerrey found himself climbing a sheer 350-foot cliff face in Southeast Vietnam. He was leading his SEAL team on a surprise raid to capture Viet Cong leaders, when an enemy grenade blew him from the wall and into the jagged rocks below. Though immobilized and critically wounded, Kerrey remained in control of the operation by radio, calling in support and directing his unit to complete the mission and secure an extraction site. His presence of mind resulted in invaluable intelligence for allied forces and earned him the Medal of Honor.

Kerrey was not a career military man. He was a citizen sailor, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve. His moment of courage decades ago is indicative of the value and commitment today’s Navy Reserve still brings to a grateful nation. There is no better time than March 3, the birthday of the Navy Reserve, to pay tribute to this proud and storied fighting force.

Centuries at Sea

The U.S. Navy Reserve was officially formed on March 3, 1915, after a successful campaign by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his assistant, a young Franklin D. Roosevelt. The true history of the branch, however, dates back much earlier.

Citizens put to sea in the name of freedom even before the formation of the Navy itself. As early as June 1775, Maine townspeople used a merchant schooner to engage and defeat a British warship.

That bold spirit would carry throughout the Revolutionary War, as it would through every major American conflict to follow.

Banding together as informal supporters, and later as organized state naval militias, civilian sailors would take to the water in defense of life and liberty. They protected Washington, D.C., in the War of 1812 and overpowered Confederate ships in the Civil War.

After its official formation at the start of World War I, the Navy Reserve played an important role hunting enemy U-boats from the air. During World War II, the reserve force would swell to several million, counting five future U.S. presidents among its ranks.

The Cold War took Navy Reservists to Korea, Berlin and Vietnam. Twenty-one thousand supported the Gulf War. And more than 50,000 have been called to duty in the Global War on Terror, constructing military bases, operating hospitals, gathering intelligence and disarming explosives.

“Ready Now. Anytime, Anywhere.”

The motto of today’s Navy Reserve says it all. They are ready to leave civilian life behind. Ready to mobilize and go where they are needed to fulfill the mission of the U.S. Navy and Marines. Ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, be it at sea, on land or in the air.

More than 100,000 strong, they play an indispensible role in a solemn partnership to uphold American values. And as active military forces and reserves grow increasingly unified, the badge of the Navy Reservist carries more weight and honor than ever.

At USAA, we offer our thanks to the Reservists for their commitment and to the families and employers who support the U.S. Navy Reserve.

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