FORT HOOD, Texas - June 14 marked a day that the Army hasn’t been able to physically celebrate since 2019: its own birthday.
After being cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and thankfully due to new guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Hood was able to put on its annual Army birthday celebration.
The day began at 6:30 a.m. with an Army birthday celebration senior noncommissioned officer five-mile run for all Fort Hood NCO leaders ranked master sergeant and above, led by Command Sgt. Maj. Cliff Burgoyne, III Corps and Fort Hood command sergeant major.
At the same time, III Corp and Fort Hood commanding general Lt. Gen. Pat White and his command team participated in Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston’s birthday team-building and strength-training challenge of completing 246 leg-tucks (as a team) and 246 air squats (individually).
Following physical training celebration activities, 1st Cavalry Division participated in a nation-wide virtual reenlistment ceremony. Fifteen Fort Hood Soldiers reaffirmed their continued commitment to serve their nation in the Army simultaneously with hundreds of Soldiers from multiple duty stations, all virtually presided by Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army.
In the afternoon, celebrations continued with a tank unveiling ceremony at Fort Hood’s Bernie Beck Gate. The tank, which is one of the first-ever M1 experimental tanks, was relocated from the 1st Cavalry Division Museum to the T.J. Mills Blvd. access road on Fort Hood. The tank serves as a reminder to the millions of motorists who enter the gate annually that Fort Hood is home of America’s Armored Corps.
Finally, Fort Hood leadership, along with the III Corp G3 office and the Fort Hood Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation, hosted an Army Birthday Celebration at Sadowski Parade Field. The 1st Cavalry Band performed for attendees as members of the Fort Hood community were able to explore displayed military vehicle and equipment; participate at a video-gaming truck and other sporting events, and enjoy numerous food and beverage trucks parked along the field.
Following retreat at 5 p.m., the III Corps commanding general spoke to the birthday attendees before the cutting of an official Army birthday cake.
“About three months ago, we were trying to figure out how to do this under COVID conditions,” White remarked. “How do we do this, celebrate our 246 birthday, recognize all the great Soldiers and families and civilians that have gotten us where we are today, and protect ourselves?
“And that changed about a month ago with some guidance from the CDC and gave us that opportunity,” White continued. “So at that opportunity, the community businesses jumped on board and said, ‘Hey, we are here, we’re a party, we’re coming out.’ So thank you very much for those businesses that found the time and data on short notice, come here and help us out.”
Following the commanding general’s remarks was the official cutting of the Army birthday cake, which is traditionally done by the youngest and oldest Soldiers. This represents the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next. This year’s cake cutting was done by Pvt. Christian Sieh, 18, and Sgt. Maj. Frank Flores, 59, along with White and Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rapp, III Corps operations sergeant major.
The final event was a virtual concert performed by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
“Well, good afternoon, to all of you at Fort Hood, the Great Place,” Gary Sinise, founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, said in opening remarks prior to the concert. “Gary Sinise here, wanting to send a personal message of thanks, gratitude, appreciation and remembrance to all of you serving, some of you currently, away from your families.
“It’s been a heck of a time, hasn’t it?” Sinise continued. “With all that everyone has been going through, still, you answered the call to duty and continue to serve in defense of freedom, and we want you to know that we’re thinking about you. At the Gary Sinise Foundation, we have been very, very busy supporting you men and women who serve in uniform, as well as our first responders, our healthcare workers — doing whatever we can to provide services and support to those who are defending us, against our enemies foreign and domestic, and of course this terrible virus that has affected the entire world.”
Following his remarks, Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan band performed during a virtual concert, which was the final event of the all-day Army birthday celebration.
“It took a lot of coordination between MWR and Fort Hood units to put everything together. It was a lot of coordination,” Sgt. Maj. John Kaczor, with the III Corps operations office, said of putting together the event, in which 13 units assisted. “Considering everything, coming out of the COVID pandemic and really hitting the first summer event, it was a success. We didn’t have as many people as we wanted to show up, but this is just going to start the ball rolling where we’ll have the families and partners in and around Fort Hood to show up, and start intermingling and becoming a family again.”
June 14 is known for being both the day that Congress officially formed the Continental Army in 1776, as well as the day that the country adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States in 1777.