Fort Sill celebrates America's birthday
July 8, 2010
Freedom, liberty, self-determination, sovereignty.
These words evoke patriotism and a unified feeling best felt on Independence Day.
Fort Sill celebrated the 234th birthday of the United States in a morning celebration Monday in front of McNair Hall. About 350 people arrived on foot, bicycle, wagon or even the shoulders of a parent to celebrate along with distinguished visitors.
The 77th Army Band and the Fort Sill Salute Battery, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery opened the celebration with the stirring and uplifting music of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" complete with the explosive report of artillery fire.
Originally written and performed outdoors in 1882, the overture celebrated the 70th anniversary of Russia's defeat of Napoleon's legions in 1812. The cannon fire in the piece signified when Russian troops captured French artillery and turned the guns on their invaders. Since that time, the overture has become a staple of American July 4th celebrations most notably in conjunction with fireworks displays.
At its conclusion, Soldiers marched onto the close manicured lawn carrying the brilliantly colored 50 state flags. As intermittent breezes lifted and settled the flags, the Soldiers formed up in a graceful arc across the lawn anchored in the middle by the color guard and behind, by the Army band underneath the garrison flag pole. The color guard and state flag bearers consisted of members of the 434th Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, the U.S. Marine Corps Artillery Detachment and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
Cannons arrayed in an opposite facing arc as gun crews alternated firing in salute to each state in the order in which they became states. John Beemer, narrator and the voice of Fort Sill, encouraged people in attendance to cheer when the state they hailed from was announced. From Delaware, the first state, which came into being Dec. 7, 1787; to the 46th state, Oklahoma, which added a star to the U.S. flag on Nov. 16, 1907; to Hawaii that became the 50th state Aug. 21, 1959 each state was given its honor and recognition.
With all states honored, all attention centered on the color guard as the band played the one song that unites them all, "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Maj. Gen. David Halverson, U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, then spoke of the magnitude of Independence Day and the great vision of the founding fathers of this nation. Referring to Tchaikovsky's much played overture, he said the synchronization of the guns reminds us of the need to maintain our readiness.
"We have to be committed to maintain our military capabilities to protect these freedoms which we have," said the general.
Halverson asked the questions are we morally fit, physically fit and war-fighting fit, and emphasized the report of the guns in the overture remind us we are.
He said Independence Day is an essential event to reflect on the country's well-being and the innovations each generation contribute to move it forward. He commended everyone from bringing their children to the celebration and teaching them these lessons.
They may be the people whose innovations and ideas solve complex issues in the future, he said.
For each veteran in attendance and especially those in uniform, Halverson spoke of the pride servicemembers serve to defend liberty. He added celebrations such as this event pass on this legacy of what we're all about.
As the general spoke of diversity and its value to this country, the multi-colored state flags signified that diversity as did those in attendance who represented an array of skin tones and nationalities as well as foreign military personnel and their families.
Lt. Col. Kyu Park, a foreign liaison officer for the Field Artillery School here, stood tall and proud in his Republic of Korea Army uniform. Beside him his family in contrast were awash in red, white and blue.
"This is a great day for the United States -- its birthday -- and we are glad to join in this great celebration," he said.
Halverson also touched on the country's commitment to excellence, standards and discipline. He said this excellence provides people around the globe a glimpse of what freedom is all about. The general and FCOE and Fort Sill Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Smith traveled to Turpin, Okla., on July 4 to attend the funeral of Spc. Jared Plunk. Halverson said Plunk embodied that excellence and gave his life in Afghanistan for freedom. He said Plunk's entire family came out to honor him and celebrate what he had done for his freedom.
The general praised that commitment to excellence, the team and to freedom saying it's deeds not mere words that make the difference.
"We will continue to march with our deeds, every day, to make our country free," he said.
Following Halverson's remarks, the crowd was invited to stand as the band played the armed services medley. Veterans young and old could be seen amongst the crowd standing just a little bit taller when their particular military service song was played. Then the crowd began to clap in rhythm as the Army song was played and voices raised in song to mix with the rippling flags and dissipating smoke.
Shortly thereafter, the color guard left the field with the nation's colors under a covering of honor, reverence and respect.
The nation's birthday was especially meaningful to Command Sgt. Maj. David Carr, 1st-14th FA, and his wife, Staff Sgt. Liela Carr who works at Reynolds Army Community Hospital on post. Unlike many recent years that found one or the other deployed, the Carrs were there together, along with their 14-month-old daughter, Gianni. As the crowd around them sang the Army song and cheered, mom, dad and Gianni all gleefully joined the festivities.
"This is our nation's birthday and this is a great event. We're trying to get Gianni caught up on all the traditions so she can learn to appreciate this great country we live in," said David.