FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Fort Drum Soldiers and community members gathered Friday at the Commons to hold a ball celebrating the Army's 237th birthday.

Col. Noel T. Nicolle, Fort Drum garrison commander and master of ceremonies for the evening, welcomed attendees and this year's guest speaker, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, to Fort Drum's 2nd annual Army Birthday Ball.

To begin, Nicolle directed everyone's attention to another special guest -- Staff Sgt. Lisa M. Wiley.
The colonel said that on Nov. 20, 2011, Wiley stepped on a pressure-plated improvised explosive device while on a mission with B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. As a result, she lost her left leg below the knee.

"When I was in San Antonio, I had the privilege of spending some time with Wiley," Nicolle told the crowd. "She told me two things during that visit. Number one, she wanted to get back to her fellow comrades. And two, she wanted to wear a gown with her prosthetic leg when she got back."

When Nicole asked Wiley to stand up, the room erupted in extended applause to honor the Soldier.

"Our great Army is the rock of this nation that, through the tumult of the last two centuries, this country has relied upon to weather the storms of history," Nicolle said.

Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain (LI) commander, spoke next. He announced that there was no one he wished to thank more than Wiley.

"She is the personification of rock hard, 10th Mountain 'Climb to Glory' spirit," Milley said. "We are thankful that you came up from Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) to be with us tonight."

Milley went on to say that the evening represented a bonding that had been forged in combat over the past 25 years -- conflicts in which nearly 250 10th Mountain Division Soldiers had been killed in action.

"You represent that bond that will never ever be broken here in the North Country," the general said.

After Milley, one of the Army's highest-ranking officers walked up to address attendees.

Austin noted that in every battle the U.S. Army has faced in the last 237 years, American Soldiers have selflessly and courageously defended freedom around the world and have never once let their country down.

"This division is one of the most deployed units in our Army," Austin said. "For more than 10 years, you have been at the tip of the spear in both Iraq and Afghanistan."

The general said that many notable achievements have been made by the division in recent years and that many Soldiers have received valor awards for their acts of bravery and heroism.

He went on to say that every time the 10th Mountain Division has been called on, the great Soldiers of the division have made a significant impact and a lasting difference.

"You have demonstrated repeatedly that no task is too great," Austin said. "You epitomize selfless service."

Earlier in the day, Austin appeared at the Army Community Covenant renewal signing ceremony in Watertown, where he signed the covenant along with many high-ranking politicians and community leaders.

Before dinner was served, Joseph E. McLaughlin, president of the Northern New York-Fort Drum chapter of the Association of the United States Army, presented awards to some exceptional Soldiers, civilians and organizations for improving the welfare and quality of Army communities.

The AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award was received by the Family of Sgt. 1st Class Kevin G. Rast, a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 7th Engineer Battalion.
Rast's Family includes his wife, Dawn N. Desmond-Rast, son Jeryd, and daughter Makayla.

Judith L. Gentner, former Fort Drum deputy to the garrison commander, was named the chapter's Department of the Army Civilian of the Year. Gentner retired from Fort Drum last year.

The AUSA Volunteer of the Year Award went to Art Logan, while the Corporate Sponsor of the Year Award went to the Lockheed Corporation.

The 10th Mountain Division (LI) Best NCO Warrior was Sgt. Kerry Harris, 91st Military Police Battalion, while the Best Soldier Warrior was Pfc. Benjamin Weston, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The Fort Drum Garrison Soldier of the Year was Spc. Ray Moultrie, while the Fort Drum Garrison NCO of the Year was Sgt. Ryan Mason.

The Dental Activity Soldier of the Year was Spc. Dax Hill.

The ball concluded with the cutting of the Army cake, followed by dancing and socializing.

Page last updated Thu June 21st, 2012 at 00:00