By Jordan Chapman, 1st Inf. Div. PAOAugust 18, 2009
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. - Noncommissioned officers of every rank helped construct a symbol of strength that illustrates the NCO's importance in the United States Army, at the C.L. Hoover Opera House Aug. 12, during the Noncommissioned Officer Backbone Ceremony.
From corporal to Sergeant Major of the Army, the ceremony featured a representative from each NCO rank describing to 1st Infantry Division Soldiers and community leaders the importance and role of their position before they placed a vertebra with their chevron, the patch signifying rank, on a pole that eventually became a backbone encased in glass.
"A backbone is a symbol that can mean many things," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne, division command sergeant major. "A person with a backbone can be labeled as having strength of character or being resolute," he said, also listing off firmness, decision and fortitude as synonyms to the word "backbone," each of which fit the description of today's NCO and the quality of leadership they achieve through their training, counseling and mentorship.
Calling the NCO the backbone of the Army not only showed the importance of each officer, but also acted as a challenge to continue service to their duties and to continue in the role they currently play in the military.
One NCO pointed out in particular by Champagne, was former Army staff sergeant Walter D. Ehlers, a D-Day veteran that survived the bullets and bombs of Normandy and three days later carried out actions that warranted a Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest decoration.
Even after telling of his experience in World War II and D-Day, Ehlers still stated that it is because of the current NCO's of today that he is allowed to live today. "We are all here for the same purpose, freedom," Ehlers said. "When it comes to getting things done ... it's the foot Soldiers, you guys, what you are doing today and saving our lives."
"Honor your Soldiers. They deserve it. They are the backbone of the Army and they are what makes us so great," Ehlers advised to all those present. "You guys are the generals."