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I have had the pleasure of being able to visit many military bases and each of those visits is a reminder of the cost of the freedoms that we enjoy here in the United States.

PHOTOS: The 82nd Airborne Division Turns 100

Our country is unlike any other in the world. Founded in a deep-rooted spirit of true democracy, our military has always defended our country against hatred and injustice, protecting our families and fellow citizens, as well as those suffering from oppression around the world.

It is with great admiration and pride that I stand before you to thank you for your service. On behalf of this country, the President and I stand with each man and woman in uniform serving to defend all of us. Our prayers and our thoughts are with all those serving overseas. Thank you for all you do. To all the spouses here, my heart and appreciation goes out to you. My husband and I extend our deepest gratitude and heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices that your families make for the protection of our country.

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This month we recognize military children and their important role in our country. They are our future leaders and I can think of no better place to inspire leadership than among the military community. The strength of this community is visible in its recovery efforts from the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence last year. I want to say thank you to all those who responded during that great time of need. It has been an incredible experience visiting Fort Bragg and seeing the special capabilities of our military.

I am honored to be First Lady of this great Country. Pence for that kind introduction. Trump Vice President Michael R. The place remains so wild that pilots are instructed to buzz the grass field before landing to chase off grazing deer. But by the time the camp is operational, the Great War is over, and the War Department, its funding cut, plans to close the base.

However, its commanding general, Albert J. Bowley, is determined to keep it open. On September 30, , it officially becomes Fort Bragg — a permanent post.

Jumps but no jump school

Now, as the nation reels from the attack on Pearl Harbor, the number of troops at Fort Bragg increases from 5, to 67, in a single year. In , odd miles north of the Sandhills in Dunn, a small turpentine-distilling and logging town, William Carey Lee is born. The son of a Civil War veteran, he grows up working in the tobacco and cotton fields, lends a hand at the family hardware store, becomes an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and matures into an independent thinker and a physically active young man.

When the Great War comes, Lee enlists, leads a platoon and later a company in combat, and is part of the Army of Occupation in Germany. After deciding to make the Army his career, he studies tank warfare at Fort Meade and is posted to France for further training in armored warfare. Lee carries the idea home to his new post in Washington, D.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall is also intrigued by the idea of airborne troops, as is President Franklin Roosevelt. Lee, then a lieutenant colonel, is summoned to brief the president, and in March is put in command of the Provisional Parachute Group at Fort Benning, Georgia. He recruits volunteers from the 29th Infantry to form a parachute test platoon of unmarried men in prime physical condition with at least two years of experience in the Army.

Dunn native Gen. William Lee, the father of the U. Army Airborne. The uniform evolves with experience to feature a special jacket, an equipment harness, baggy trousers with cargo pockets, and a steel helmet with a chin cup and strap.

Fort Bragg Americas Airborne Elite

The high lace-up boots, baggy pants tucked into the tops, become a distinguishing emblem of pride for airborne troops. So, too, does the medal members of the unit wear: Five successful jumps earn each man the coveted silver wings of the Airborne. On a jump in November , Lee breaks his back, and when the stunning news of the Pearl Harbor attack comes over the radio, he is still recuperating in an upper-body cast.

But the success of the original test platoon has led to the creation of two full airborne divisions of 10, men each, supported by engineers and artillery: the st and the 82nd — plus glider-borne units — all under the command of Lee, now a brigadier general. Lee commands the st.

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The patron saint of the airborne troops: Michael the Archangel, the winged warrior who stands with his heel atop Satan, poised to impale him with the tip of his spear. Fort Bragg grows at an astonishing rate. Dirt roads are paved, as are the landing fields at Pope.

Railroad tracks running into the base carry trainloads of lumber, galvanized metal sheeting, and concrete. Cranes and forklifts off-load cargo alongside the tracks, and crews scramble to retrieve it. The building crews work in a continuous, synchronized fashion to get the work done — fast. Nearly 3, new wooden buildings spring up — barracks and mess halls, headquarters offices and classrooms — post-and-beam construction of the most basic kind, spartan and utilitarian, with galvanized metal roofs and walls. After pouring concrete slabs, a crew can erect an entire building in as little as 30 minutes.

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In this manner, four complexes of barracks are built — lined in straight avenues each nearly a mile wide and a quarter-mile broad. But even with the frenzy of construction, Fort Bragg is not large enough to handle the flood of airborne and other troops assigned to train and stage for overseas deployment.

So in , a short distance southwest of Fort Bragg, the Army builds a complementary facility with 1, buildings to train airborne troops, named Camp Mackall in honor of paratrooper John T. Mackall, who was killed in the assault on Algiers.