VICENZA, Italy (June 12, 2020) -- This year, on June 14, there will be 245 candles on the virtual cake for the U.S. Army Birthday, to mark the day in 1775 when the Second Continental Congress formed the Continental Army, under the command of General George Washington, to unite the 13 colonies in their fight against British forces.
During this annual observance, the Army focuses on the accomplishment of Soldiers, by remembering those who came before them and paying a tribute to their continued honor, bravery, loyalty, and legacy of service to the nation.
Like all individuals who had their birthdays during the coronavirus pandemic, the Army's birthday will look different this year.
Since tradition calls for the oldest Soldier of the U.S Army to cut the cake with the youngest, the United States Army Garrison Italy approached this custom in a virtual setting, by recognizing the two Soldiers within the Vicenza Military Community who would have shared the honor at this year’s ceremony.
The two Service members also share their birth date, but 42 years apart.
The most Senior is Col. Douglas Ray Campbell, U.S. Army Africa, G1, who joined the Army Feb. 12, 1985 at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
"I reported for basic training to be a Korean linguist, having served as a missionary in Korea for two years," said Campbell.
He explained that at the time, the Army needed linguists. He thought he would take the opportunity to both serve his country and pursue his interests in Korea and the Korean language.
"Basic training is a lasting memory - the start of my career," he continued, "The principles of discipline, teamwork, camaraderie, obedience, and being accountable amidst physical and mental demands still stand out in my mind."
Later, his transition from enlisted to officer reinforced and refined his principles of leadership, professionalism, responsibility, and authority. "With that in mind, I believe the best thing the Army has done was to define and promote the Army values. Soldiers who live and uphold the Army values succeed in the Army and in life."
According to Campbell, the Army values and sound principles have shaped his life and career, accompanied by fond memories of assignments, leaders, and people with whom he served in nine different locations.
"All my assignments - locations and duty positions - are memorable. About half of my career has been overseas in Korea, Thailand, Italy, Germany, and Afghanistan. I have enjoyed each assignment. Each location and duty were great experiences and I have always worked for good leaders. Each taught me something valuable by word and example," he added.
Campbell recalls memorable experiences throughout his 35-year-long career.
"Perhaps the one, most significant memory, is of my family. They have always supported and loved me no matter what. My wife is remarkable and has had the hard jobs of taking care of and raising children and a Soldier. Most of our children and in-laws have or are serving in the military," he continued.
Campbell is at his second assignment in Italy - the first was in Naples.
"Living in Italy has been a pleasure," he said, "This assignment is a culmination of my career and also a chance to enjoy the people, culture, and beauty of the country."
He extends well wishes to the youngest soldier, Pvt. Noah Hernandez, a newly arrived Sky Soldier in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, born exactly 42 years later.
"Regardless of generation, I think living and upholding the Army Values is the first and foremost thing for any Soldier. Soldiers who live the Army Values succeed, stay out of trouble, and become part of our great Army," Campbell said.
Campbell is closer to his retirement, where he plans to visit his children and grandchildren, and stay in touch with comrades of his career, whereas Hernandez is just getting started since arriving in Vicenza in late January from Airborne school, just before the pandemic.
"I joined the Army in early 2019 and left for basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, on June 17 to get out of a bad situation, and to live life in a stable environment," he said.
Hernandez made his decision to join the Army just two weeks after graduating high school, and moved forward, acquiring his Army job skills at Advanced Individual Training.
He currently serves as a computer/detection systems repairer with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, keeping the Army's sophisticated computer and electronic systems functioning properly.
Hernandez’s military career is just beginning and has yet to hold all the life and professional experiences of Campbell’s. Still, he already learned the value of being part of an institution such as the Army.
"The Army is definitely not how I thought it was going to be; however, I have learned more things than I thought I would. Very quickly you get a different perspective on life, from leaders, friends, and fellow Soldiers,” explained Hernandez.
He continued, “I learned about life and relationships with people you meet. When everyone is together living by the same values, it makes you more connected and able to relate better. When you're all going through things together you have a shared cause."
Regarding his future, Hernandez is unsure of where he sees himself in five years, but his life path is already marked.
"I have a feeling that no matter where I go, I will be living a better life than if I had not made the decision to join the Army."
A *Virtual Event* - Army Cake-cutting and Reenlistment Ceremony