FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Thousands of Soldiers, Family Members and civilians flocked to Division Hill for the culmination of Fort Drum’s annual Mountainfest celebration.
Although the threat of inclement weather loomed overhead, the event was a success, according to Donna Orvis, chief of marketing for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
“Everyone (seemed) to be having a good time, (especially) the children,” she said.
Mountainfest celebration kicked off with unit sporting events June 20-22 and ended in Thursday’s festival with inflatable play areas, slides, activities, a magic show by Jason the Entertainer, and a Car / Audio and Motorcycle show and competition sponsored by Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers.
Sgt. Juan Carrillo, who serves with 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, said he had a good time at Mountainfest and admitted he spent most of his time at the car show. He entered his red Harley Davidson motorcycle in the competition.
“I’ve had a pretty good time at Mountainfest (this year),” he said. “I’ve mostly been staying over by the cars. Trying to take me away from cars is like taking me away from my life.”
Aileen Badgett, whose husband serves with 7th Engineer Battalion, said she and her Family have attended the annual celebration for the past three years, noting this year’s Mountainfest would be their last.
“We’re (moving) soon, so this is the last year we’ll be able to attend,” she said.
Badgett added that her daughter Ashley, 9, enjoyed the archery activity, while her son Collin, 2, played in the bouncy houses.
“(FMWR) has added more activities each year, and this year was truly the best yet,” she said. “The fireworks were the best part. We’re really going to miss this event.”
After the daytime activities, Soldiers and Family Members braved stormy weather for the Salute to the Nation festivities, which began with cannon blasts and a parade of flags representing all 50 state flags and six U.S. territories, while the Northern Blend Chorus sang “God Bless the U.S.A.”
After the state flags were presented, Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr., senior commander Fort Drum, and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Parham recognized 10th Mountain Division Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Staff Sgt. Douglas A Milne, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Soldier of the Year Pfc. Thomas Hauser, 563rd Military Police Company, 91st Military Police Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade.
The Honorable Tony Keating, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, provided the formal remarks for the event.
“When I was asked to be the keynote speaker at this afternoon’s celebration, I set about trying to identify examples of the values that undergirded our forefathers’ construction of our democracy 235 years ago,” he said. “I was hoping that I could find some sterling examples of the principles that guided them still in action today, and I was very gratified that I could.”
Keating said he found the principles of exemplary citizenship, personal freedom, self-determination and patriotism.
“When I looked for examples of exemplary citizenship, I was heartened to find that there were quite a few,” Keating said.
“But, the one that intrigued me most as I thought about it was the one involving a subset of America " specifically, Americans of the Islamic faith. Perhaps it was intriguing because they have been largely unheralded,” he said.
Keating explained an instance of exemplary citizenship by noting the fear in America, following the attacks on the country in 2001, concerning Americans of the Islamic faith. He added the country saw terrorist acts on many occasions throughout the years.
“People within the Islamic community of American stepped up for America when we needed them most. They were not about to see their country impaled by the extremist views,” he explained, adding, “we can be proud of them and grateful that's they're our fellow American citizens.”
Keating described self-determination and personal freedom by noting an event that occurred in Iraq in 2006 " the country’s first election. He said that America’s military made a “huge difference” in the Iraqi people’s lives and “made that progress possible.”
He said when he looked for examples of patriotism, he found it in a “group that epitomized patriotism on a continuing basis.”
Keating said he discovered the evidence “right under my nose, or specifically, for the purposes of this day, standing at parade rest right in front of me.”
He described the origins of the 10th Mountain Division (LI), noting that all who have served in the division since 1985 have been volunteers. Keating complimented past and present division Soldiers on their missions of peacekeeping, stabilization and nation-building throughout the world.
He concluded his speech by telling attendees, “we are here to celebrate the advent of our nation’s 235th birthday, and boy, do we ever have a lot to celebrate.”
A concert featuring Jared Campbell and T.J. Murphy, and a fireworks display followed Keating’s remarks.