Army celebrates its birthday, Flag Day
June 20, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Although the U.S. Army was established in 1775, it did not have a single, standard flag to represent the entire organization until it was 181 years old. The first official U.S. Army flag was unfurled June 14, 1956, in Philadelphia.
The Army and American flags, along with historical U.S. flags, were featured prominently as Fort Sill celebrated the Army's 238th birthday and Flag Day with a ceremony June 14, outside McNair Hall.
Hundreds of service members, employees, family members, friends and leaders from Oklahoma and the Lawton-Fort Sill community attended the annual celebration, which showcased Soldiers putting historic campaign streamers on the Army flag.
In his invocation, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Steven Maglio, deputy installation chaplain, said, "We pray our flag will be honored around the world as the flag that represents freedom as a nation."
Speaker, Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, welcomed the crowd.
"We especially want to thank the veterans and family members," McDonald said. "It's your sacrifice, and it's your example and your service that has made our Army the strength of our nation."
The general also thanked today's young service members.
"It's comforting to know that this great Army and our great flag will continue to flourish due to the quality of young men and women like you who choose to serve," he said.
Although stars have been added to the U.S. flag since it was established by Congress June 14, 1777, the values and the ideals that it represents equality, opportunity and freedom have not changed, McDonald said.
It was under this banner that a new Continental Army marched unified with ideals of freedom, independence and liberty, he said.
"It was under this banner that our Army endured what seemed to be a never enduring bombardment at Fort McHenry (Md.), inspiring Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem," McDonald said. And, it was under this banner as the Army struggled as brother fought brother during the Civil War.
This banner saw the Buffalo Soldiers help blaze a trail in Oklahoma to establish Fort Sill, he said.
Today, it is under this banner that an Army force of 60,000 still climbs the mountains of Afghanistan and remains stationed at more than 160 countries, McDonald said. "We at Fort Sill, personally know these troops as members of the 75th Fires Brigade and the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade continuing the fight for freedom."
Despite the conclusion of fighting in Iraq, and the future drawdowns in Afghanistan, the Army still continues to train and equip to meet any threat as it has throughout 187 campaigns during its 238 years, he said.
Flag bearers marched into place with historic U.S. flags as program narrator John Starling described their significance, while the 77th U.S. Army Band "Pride of Fort Sill" played patriotic music.
"On the famous Betsy Ross flag the stars were first arranged in a circle," Starling said. Since there was no official U.S. Flag for the first year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence there were a great number of homespun flag designs.
During the ceremony, Starling described the Army's battle campaign streamers as they were placed atop the Army flag.
Streamers from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to World War I to the current fight were placed by Staff Sgt. Roberty Lucyk and Sgt. Wallace Demetrius, both from B Battery, 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery.
The ceremony concluded with a birthday cake cutting with the post's youngest Soldier, Pvt. Tyler Owen, 17, in Basic Combat Training, and McDonald slicing the cake together with a sword.
The tradition symbolized the converging of the energy and enthusiasm of young Soldiers with the experience and wisdom of senior leaders.
Owen, an Army National Guard Soldier from Greenfield, Ind., said it was an huge honor to cut the cake.
"I don't think I'll ever forget this," said Owen, of F Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th FA, and who will graduate from high school next year.
Afterward, guests mingled and ate the cake created by Food Service Specialists Spc. Adam Hermann and Spc. Lesley Byrd, both from 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade; and Sgt. David Bernier, 75th Fires Brigade.