By Spc. John Weaver, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJune 17, 2019
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Thousands of Soldiers with America's I Corps participated in a celebratory run marking the Army's 244th birthday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord June 14.
Led by Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, I Corps commanding general, troops began the 4-mile run in unit formations, taking off from Watkins Field immediately following reveille.
"A lot of our units don't get to see one another, so getting them all out in the field lets them see the power of the corps and the power of the Army, especially on the Army's birthday," Volesky said. "You know just watching them run how motivated they are - there's nobody in the world that's going to beat the United States Army."
Participants motivated and encouraged each other throughout the run, hoisting unit guidons and colors high as the sounds of classic run cadences and classic rock music filled the air.
"It's part of our tradition in the Army to celebrate our birthday," Volesky said. "Obviously, 244 years of our Army defending our nation -- it's really important to us to recognize that."
In keeping with military tradition, Soldiers gathered after the run to honor the Army's birthday and legacy with a cake.
The youngest and oldest I Corps Soldiers attending, Pvt. Javier Mendez, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry, and Lt. Col Leilani Siaki, 47th Combat Support Hospital, cut the first slice together with a ceremonial saber.
At 17 years old, Mendez has only been stationed at JBLM for two weeks. He said seeing the whole corps assembled for the celebration made him feel a part of something bigger than himself.
"I definitely feel honored" he said, with a smile. "I got to meet a three-star general. Not many people have that opportunity, I was told."
Growing up, Siaki was raised by a strong military family and still remembers being excited and humbled at the opportunity to serve in the Army.
"Seeing all the units together before the run was very moving," she said. "It just reminded me again how proud I am to be serving as a Soldier."
Celebrations continued throughout the day across the base and closing with a military ball for Soldiers and their spouses.