NEW YORK (Army News Service, June 13, 2015) -- In a celebration with Manhattan skyscrapers as a backdrop, the Army marked its 240th birthday in bustling, glitzy Times Square with an enlistment ceremony and cake cutting, along with musical and drill team performances.

The chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Ray Odierno, led the birthday events here Friday, highlighting the service and sacrifice of the nation's Soldiers.

"Today is about the long line of people, the millions upon millions of men and women who have served the nation wearing this uniform from 1775 until today," Odierno said.

Many great celebratory events have taken place in New York City, Odierno said, including those after the end of World Wars, making the city a perfect place for the Army to mark its birthday.

"The relationship between the United States Army and New York City goes all the way back to 1775, so there is no better place to celebrate our great birthday than right here in Times Square," Odierno said.

The commissioner of the New York City mayor's office of veterans affairs, retired. Brig. Gen. Lorre Sutton, read a proclamation from Mayor Bill de Blasio that declared the day, June 12, 2015, as United States Army Day.

ARMY'S FUTURE

Odierno swore-in 48 men and women into the Army during the celebration.

"It's so important that we recognize that there are still great young men and women willing to stand up and raise their right hand to defend this nation," he said.

"There is no greater nation on Earth than this one that we live in, and I feel so fortunate that I've had the opportunity to serve this great nation," Odierno said.

After the enlistments, Odierno cut an Army birthday cake with the help of the senior- and junior-ranking members of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard.

NEW MEMBER PERSPECTIVE

Originally from Gambia, enlistee Pateh Jawo said he is proud to be able to realize his dreams of becoming a medical scientist.

"I just want to say thank you everybody, especially my recruiters who gave me every opportunity, all the encouragement to get into this great service to serve a great nation like the U.S., where everybody's equal," he said.

Jawo, who is shipping off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for boot camp, said he is happy and excited to join, and so grateful for the opportunity to serve in the Army.

"It's a great job that I choose to do, and it's something that I will never regret doing in my life," he said.

ARMY BIRTHDAY

Onlookers crowded the bustling Manhattan streets as they watched the celebration that included performances by the U.S. Army band Downrange, the U.S. Army Military Academy band from West Point, and the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Drill Team and Fife and Drum Corps.

Members of the public were invited to go inside the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier exhibit, the American Soldier Adventure Semi, which featured interactive displays, weapon simulators, and equipment and gear.

They were also invited to try a piece of the birthday cake baked by reality show star Buddy Valastro of the Cake Boss.

The two Soldiers who helped Odierno cut the cake -- Staff Sgt. Edimael Aponte and Spc. Michael John -- said they were proud to take part in the event.

It was an exciting opportunity, Aponte said. "I am proud to serve in the United States Army," said the staff sergeant, who has been in the Army for three decades.

John, who has been in for about three-and-a-half years, looks forward to continuing to learn and advance in the Army. He is currently the 69th Infantry Battalion Soldier of the Year.

Meeting Odierno and helping cut the cake were memorable moments, he said.

"You see the chief of staff in pictures and I never would have thought I would actually see him in person," John said. "It's a really great experience. It's like a once in a lifetime experience."

The Army birthday is June 14, marking the day in 1775 when the Continental Congress approved the formation of the Continental Army.