233-Year-Old Army Shows Experience, Youthful Spirit
June 27, 2008
Col. Walt Lorcheim is nearing the end of his service to the Army. Pvt. Ricky Hartwell is just beginning.
Together, they represent the best of the Army -- one with experience, the other with youthful spirit.
They showed their solidarity on the evening of the Army's 233rd birthday June 14, with each of them joining forces with Redstone Arsenal's leadership to ceremonially cut two cakes - Hartwell and Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command, cut the Army birthday cake with a military saber while Lorcheim and Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of Redstone Arsenal and the Aviation and Missile Command, used a saber to cut a cake in honor of the birthday of the nation's flag.
Both the Army and the U.S. flag share June 14 as a birthday. Hartwell was chosen to cut the Army birthday cake because he is the youngest Soldier on Redstone Arsenal. Lorcheim was chosen to cut the flag cake as the oldest active duty Soldier on post. The cake cutting ceremony was part of the annual Army birthday and flag day dinner hosted by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army at the Officers and Civilians Club.
"We're an Army of one. We're Army strong. But our slogan used to be 'Be All You Can Be,'" Lorcheim told Hartwell prior to the ceremony.
"You can do whatever you want in the U.S. Army. You can be all you can be. The Army will be good to you. You have a lot to look forward to. Hang in there. The Army's a great place."
Lorcheim, who is the chief of Operations and Plans for AMCOM G-3, will be retiring in August with more than 38 years of service as a Soldier. He will be 60 in September.
"I enjoy what I do. I have fun mentoring young Soldiers," Lorcheim said. "I came to Redstone Arsenal in 1981 with OMEMS (Ordnance Munitions and Electronic Maintenance School). I've been assigned to every organization in the Huntsville area, except the Corps of Engineers. I've been a company commander, a battalion commander. I've done it all."
Hartwell, 19, from Lake Placid, Fla., joined the Army after two semesters of college. He is a member of Headquarters & Alpha Company, and a student at OMEMS, where he is taking his advanced individual training in combat missile systems repair.
"I always wanted to join since I've been in the ninth-grade," he said. "I just finally got up the nerve to sign the papers."
Hartwell plans to make the Army a career. He wants to participate in the Army's Green to Gold program, where enlisted Soldiers can earn a commission as an officer by completing college while on active duty or by leaving the Army temporarily to pursue a college degree.
"There's job security in the Army, and you get more respect as an Army Soldier," Hartwell said. "This is a great experience."
Calling it a "great night to celebrate the 233rd birthday of our Army," Campbell, who was the evening's keynote speaker, told a mixed gathering of AUSA members -- many who are military retirees - and young Soldiers and Huntsville community leaders that this year's Army birthday brought one specific Soldier to mind.
"I want to talk about a Soldier because that's what the Army is about," he said.
And with that Campbell told his audience about Newton Duke, the Korean War corporal from Gardendale who waited 55 years to receive the Purple Heart he earned for injuries he sustained as a wartime POW.
"He describes everything we find in our warrior ethos," said Campbell, who presented Duke with the Purple Heart in a ceremony June 7.
"Meeting him might have been the highlight of 35 years in the Army for myself."
Duke's Purple Heart joins a long list of medals he has received for his service. He has also received the POW Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and Presidential Unit Citation.
In 1951, Duke was a member of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, and spent more than 90 days in "very intense combat" with the Chinese deep behind enemy lines.
The Chinese "ended up surrounding the entire company," Campbell said. "Their lieutenant wanted to surrender to save their lives. He was killed. The company was captured and marched 80 miles into China. Corporal Duke was wounded eight times. When they were finally released, Corporal Duke was convinced they could carry the wounded back to the line. They did and they were saved."
Duke spent 27 months as a POW in North Korea from 1951-53. During his captivity, he went from weighing 200 pounds to weighing 120.
"When he returned to Freedom Bridge, he asked somebody to take the flag off a jeep and he draped himself with that flag and thanked God for his freedom," Campbell said. "Today, he still says he would do it again if he had to. He cares for our country ...
"These men survived, came out and, what's most impressive, they say 'Yes, I would do it again.'"
Campbell, who just passed his 35 year anniversary in the Army, said Soldiers like Duke "make all of us in uniform continue to serve. There's camaraderie in the Army. You go through things by leaning on each other.
"Like Newton Duke, I wouldn't change anything. I would start all over again tomorrow if I had to."
Campbell also spoke of the bravery and courage he sees in the young Soldiers of today.
"It takes some courage to step forward when you know six to 12 months after you enlist there's a high probability that you're going to war," he said.
Keith Freitag, vice president of awards and recognition for AUSA, led the evening's program, with included the national anthem sung by retired Sgt. Maj. Gregory Knight; toasts to the president, Army, U.S. flag, Soldiers and fallen comrades; recognition of Cadet Airman 1st Class Noelani Green of the Huntsville High School Air Force JROTC as the future of the military; recognition of the Dale and Kim Anton family as the AUSA volunteer family of the year for 2008; video presentations by Pete Geren, secretary of the Army, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston; and recognition of corporate sponsors.
Prior to the cutting of the Army birthday cake, Freitag spoke about the creation of the Army in 1775 by the Continental Congress.
Since its formation, he said, "many men and women have borne the title Soldier. In memory of their service we commemorate the 233rd birthday of the United States Army by calling to mind the glory of its long and illustrious history.
"In every battle or skirmish since the birth of our Army, Soldiers have acquitted themselves with the highest distinction. The term 'Soldier' has come to signify military efficiency and soldierly virtue. Today, the Army's 233rd birthday, we recognize its history, traditions and service to the nation."
Also during the evening, the winners of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award were announced. The award was created by AUSA to recognize first sergeants who do the most in support of their Soldiers and the families of their Soldiers. This year's winners are: Active Army - 1st Sgt. Paul Grosch; Army Reserve - 1st Sgt. Daryl Owens; and National Guard - 1st Sgt. Johnny Whisenant.
"This is a great day," Myles said during the program. "This is a great day for our country because it's the birthday of the Army."