The senior division in the senior service celebrated three major anniversaries this month, culminating with the Army birthday on June 14.

The 1st Infantry Division, the U.S. Army's oldest and longest consecutively serving division, marked the 66th Anniversary of D-Day, the division's 93rd birthday, and the Army's 235th birthday, all during a nine-day span.

This year's celebrations, held across the globe, show how much the division, and the Army, have changed over the decades. In previous conflicts, the division headquarters and its subordinate brigades would be in the same general area, holding one mass celebration. With the Army's new modular, brigade-centric structure, 'Big Red One' Soldiers spent the Army birthday spread across seven regions in three countries.

Sgt. Maj. J.B. Thomas, the 1st Inf. Div. communications sergeant major and native of Miami, participated in the Army Birthday 12K Run at Contingency Operating Base Basra in southern Iraq. Thomas, who is celebrating his 25th Army Birthday, said the run held special meaning, aside from being the longest he's ever run in an organized event.

"It's a way of waking up and enjoying another day in the Army," he said. "It's another birthday for the Army, and I'm proud to serve."

The Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., held a mass re-enlistment of 111 Soldiers on June 6 at Camp Taji in central Iraq. June 6 marked the anniversary of the division's amphibious landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. The CAB also held a 5K race and volleyball tournament.

In the midst of the celebrations, the explosion of a nearby improvised explosive device echoed across Taji.

"In everything we did today we took a moment to remember the division's history - and sure enough, we're still in a dangerous place," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson, speaking about the explosion. "Iraq has come a long way and it's entering a new phase of the operation, but it was a reminder that there are still dangers out here, and we're still warriors."

In northern Iraq, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. celebrated the 'Big Red One' and Army birthdays while preparing to redeploy from Tikrit.

"I couldn't be prouder to be in the military and follow in the footsteps of my forefathers that have fought for our freedoms," said Staff Sgt. Lyle Adkinson, a construction engineer with Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Bde. "I just want to do my part to continue our tradition."

One of Adkinson's Soldiers, Pfc. Maxwell Thompson, echoed that sentiment. For Thompson, the connection to the Army and the 1st Inf. Div. legacy is personal: his grandfather fought in Vietnam in the same unit Thompson now serves in.

"The camaraderie and the Army is really not a job," Thompson said. "It's more of a lifestyle."

Back at Fort Riley, Kan., the rear division headquarters held a celebration involving cake-cutting and Soldiers displaying uniforms from different periods throughout the Army and 'Big Red One' history.

Brig. Gen. David Petersen, the rear division commanding general, said the Army and 1st Inf. Div. histories are intertwined with that of the United States.

"The Army's story is America's story," Petersen said. "Every man and woman wearing a uniform today is pinning another chapter in that glorious history ... and now today that burden, that duty, indeed that privilege falls upon the Soldiers of today."

<i>Contributions for this story made by Master Sgt. Matt Howard, Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, Sgt. Shantelle Campbell, Spc. Roland Hale, and Jordan Chapman</i>

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16