NATICK, Mass. (June 13, 2014) -- The Natick Soldier Systems Center celebrated the 239th Army birthday a day early on June 13. Col. Collier Slade, military deputy commander, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, noted that it was fitting the ceremony took place near the original Army's birthplace and at a place dedicated to the Soldier.

The Army was established by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, when the Congress began supporting New England militia members who were opposing British troops.

Natick's celebration opened with NSRDEC's own Clara Calderon singing a moving rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The singing of the national anthem was followed by a cake-cutting ceremony.

In a time-honored tradition, Slade -- who was flanked by NSSC's oldest Soldier, oldest civilian employee, youngest Soldier and youngest civilian employee -- carved the cake with a sword. The oldest Soldier was Lt. Col. Michael Boye, 56, and the youngest Soldier was Pvt. 2 Mackenzie Palmer, 19. The oldest civilian employee was Bob Noonan, 81, and the youngest was Kush Bhagat, 19.

"To our youngest Soldier and civilian, I recommend that you talk to Bob, because he is doing something really right," Slade said.

"This is my first official Army birthday bash," said Slade, recounting how he had served 10 of his 27 years in the Army at U.S. embassies overseas, where the Marines outnumbered the Soldiers and the Marine Corps birthday was celebrated. He noted that he enjoyed those events, but they weren't Army.

"It is appropriate for us to celebrate the Army's 239th birthday here at the beautiful Natick Soldier Systems Center peninsula for a couple of reasons," Slade said. "The first is that it all started here, or close to here … so this is really the equivalent of coming home for your birthday. The second reason that it makes so much sense for us to celebrate the Army's birthday here is that we all at the NSSC specialize in birthdays. What I mean is that the work that we do … helps to ensure the safety and protection of our Soldiers -- helping them to have more birthdays. Bottom line, the work done here saves lives and protects Soldiers.

"We together, military and civilians, side by side, make up the world's best Army."