By Dave Chace, FORSCOM Public AffairsJune 17, 2013
The city of Chicago has had much to celebrate over the past week.
Wednesday night, Blackhawks Right Wing Andrew Shaw snagged a triple-overtime, game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Thursday afternoon at Wrigley FIeld, their beloved Cubs ground out a win against the Cincinnati Reds in the 14th inning, on a pinch-hit single by Julio Borbon.
And as Chicago celebrated its players, it also celebrated the nation's Soldiers and veterans, as Gen. Daniel B. Allyn rallied the city into a different celebration: the U.S. Army's 238th birthday.
"We were very blessed to celebrate the Army's birthday in Chicago over the last few days," Allyn said June 14 after slicing a saber through a U.S. Army birthday cake alongside local city leaders at the Union League Club downtown. Allyn is the commanding general for U.S. Army Forces Command, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. FORSCOM is the Army's overarching command for most of its active-duty, conventional corps and divisions based in the continental United States; it also provides training and readiness oversight to the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
Allyn greeted fans and participated in the opening ceremonies at the Blackhawks and Cubs games, joining military veterans on the United Center ice for Wednesday's national anthem, and throwing a first-pitch strike Thursday at Wrigley Field. Between and during these events, he talked to community leaders and local reporters about support programs available to military veterans and the values and discipline inherent in U.S. Army Soldiers, past and present.
The city's passion for its sports teams is equal to its passion for U.S. Army Soldiers' service overseas and on the homefront, Allyn said.
"[The people I've met] have shown a sincere gratitude for the Soldiers who serve our country, who wear the uniform and serve a cause greater than themselves," Allyn said. "For all our Soldiers -- particularly those in Afghanistan and around the world -- [this trip] exemplified the appreciation and connection that the average fan, the average person on the street, has for the important work that they're doing."
On June 14, 1775, the Army was stood up by the Second Continental Congress to secure the nation and provide the roots of what has become the strongest nation in the world, Allyn said. The United States is strong today because of the strength of its Army, which, in turn, is strong because of the strength of its Soldiers, families and supporters throughout the country, he said.
"Celebrating the Army's birthday is important, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the 238 years of our Army and our nation's history, and the integrated role that our Army has played in the freedoms that we enjoy today," Allyn said. "It's strength for today and strength for the future of our nation."
Brig. Gen. Stephen K. Curda echoed Allyn's comments after the June 14 Army Birthday cake-cutting ceremony and "Soldier for Life" veteran-support panel in downtown Chicago.
Chicago and its citizens go to great lengths to honor the nation's past and present Soldiers, said Curda, a U.S. Army Reserve leader who lives and works in Chicago as a civilian, and also commands the 351st Civil Affairs Command based out of Mountain View, Calif.
"Right now, less than 1 percent of our population in the United States is in any way affiliated with the military," Curda said. "I know people are very patriotic, and they want to be supportive, even if they're not sure what they can do. These events really bring the military to the forefront, giving civilians the opportunity to understand and appreciate Soldiers' service."
"I continue to be proud of the fact that I live in Chicago," he said.
Curda, a former commander of the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, based in Homewood, Ill. just south of Chicago, said citizens in and around the city have been quick to honor the Soldiers he's worked with, particularly when returning from overseas deployments. From city-wide recognition events to local non-profit organizations' support to veterans' transition, mental health and employment, Curda said Chicago is one of the most patriotic cities in the United States.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers must balance their civilian lives with their military service, and hometown community support is an important element in that balance, Curda said.
"We're very fortunate to have understanding employers," he said. "The country understands the sacrifices that Reserve and National Guard Soldiers make, so they want to work with us. It's a good challenge that I think our nation has stepped up to support."
This type of local understanding and support also builds benefits for former Soldiers transitioning into civilian lives, be it through retirement from military service or having reached the end of their term of service.
"Between 2006 and 2011, 860,000 Soldiers returned to all but 20 counties across the United States," Allyn said. "There is a very local solution to bringing a Soldier back into a community to make professional contributions."
"[This event] is part of our effort to educate local communities on all the benefits that come with bringing a veteran into their organization," Allyn said. "Leaders of character. Experience and expertise in tough environments. Army values, commitment and dedication that is second-to-none. These things will make any team stronger."