By Alex McVeigh, Pentagram Staff WriterJune 15, 2009
FORT MYER, Va. -- As the Army celebrated 234 years of service, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren stopped by Fort Myer's Cody Child Development Center Monday to make sure the youngest members of the Army Family were appreciated.
The Fife and Drum Corps began the afternoon with a brief performance. In between songs they told the group of 35 children about their uniforms, instruments and history. They even played their signature tune, "Yankee Doodle" and asked the children to guess the song.
When Geren walked in to the Blue Jay classroom, home to 4- and 5-year-olds at the CDC, he was greeted by a chorus of 35 voices in unison saying "Good afternoon Mister Secretary!" Several students presented him with birthday cards for the Army, one in the shape of a cake.
"I'm honored to take part in this opportunity to share [the Army birthday] with these children," Geren said. "The Army family is only successful if all its members, Soldiers and their families pull together."
Geren told the kids a few facts about the Army, including that June 14 was the Army's 234th birthday. He told them that if it wasn't for the creation of the Army in June 1775, it would have been near impossible to declare our independence in July 1776.
He then read from this year's book, which features a face for those familiar with last year's birthday book, Sam the dog. Sam belongs to an Army family and spends his time dreaming about being an Army dog.
When we last saw him, Sam's owner was saying how he didn't think Sam could be an Army dog, he'd just chase birds. This year, Sam was able to realize his dream of becoming an Army dog, despite not being a big strong dog like the ones he dreams about.
"Secretary Geren wanted us to find a way to make Sam an Army dog this year," said Mary Ellen Pratt, chief of Child Development Programs for the Army, and the author of the book. "We wanted to show that you don't have to be anything big and strong to serve this country. Army children are heroes, and we're all members of the Army team."
After the reading, a special guest was brought in. Cordymay, who serves as a certified pet therapy dog for the American Red Cross at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and is also featured in the book, came in, and the children all gathered around to pet her.
No birthday party would be complete without a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You," which was provided by the Fife and Drum Corps as a cake was wheeled in. The cake was in the shape of an American flag, with the number 234 spelled out on top.
The Fife and Drum Corps went into the Army song as the cake was cut, and the children and visitors who were in attendance each got a piece of the Army's birthday cake.
Geren came to the CDC this time last year, as he said he believes it is important to remind the youngest members of the Army family how important they are.
"The Army birthday is a celebration of the entire Army family, and the kids are an important part of that family," Geren said. "I hope that by reading the book, they know just how important they are to their parents' service."