FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Fort Leonard Wood community celebrated the Army’s 248th birthday on Wednesday, with a division-style birthday run, a cake-cutting ceremony, a concert by the 399th Army Band, a Retreat ceremony and more.
The celebration began pre-dawn on Gammon Field, where thousands of service members — including Airmen, Marines and Sailors — were gathered to participate in a three-mile, division-style run. ,
“Our Army’s birthday predates our nation’s birthday because before we could have a nation, we needed people who were willing to fight for the idea that a nation founded on liberty, justice and equality, and governed by its people, could long endure,” said Brig. Gen. Sarah Albrycht, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant. “When you volunteered to join the Army, you became the decedents of those patriots and inherited the responsibility to defend the ideas and the nation they fought and died to create. Whether you have worn the Army’s uniform — or that of our sister services or international partners — for less than a year or more than 30 years, I thank you for your service to our Army, our nation or to the ideals it represents.”
Fort Leonard Wood’s dining facilities kept the birthday celebration going with a special Army birthday lunch menu, that included steak, Greek lemon chicken, barbeque ribs, shrimp scampi, baked potatoes, sweet potato wedges, summer squash and pasta salad. The meal concluded with a decorated 248th birthday cake served with melon slices, peaches halves and banana splits.
Beverly Leggett, Installation Food Program manager, called it “an honor” to help Fort Leonard Wood commemorate the Army birthday by providing a special meal that fed more than 10,000 service members here.
“Across the military footprint, service members, civilians, retirees, family members and contractors are celebrating the Army today — every accomplishment, victory, lesson and memory will be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and we say ‘thank you,’” Leggett said. “The birthday meal is a legacy for food service, an Army tradition that will never be forgotten nor taken lightly. Our food service staff spent tireless hours prepping for this meal, from grilled steak to shrimp scampi and a side of sweet potato wedges — and don’t forget the fruit salad and banana splits.”
Later in the afternoon, a traditional Army cake-cutting ceremony took place in the Hoge Hall foyer, where Beck thanked the joint-service partners in attendance “for celebrating with us today,” before he spoke on what the Army birthday means to him.
“What today is really about is people, because the Army is people,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general. “So, you think about 248 years, and what that really means to our service and to our nation. The Army has been through lots of ups and downs, but through all of it — through thick and thin — the Army has been there when the nation needs. And you think about all of us that are having the opportunity to serve now, and that is because of those that came before us. That is because of those, whose shoulders we stand on right now. So, it is my honor to be part of this tradition, and that’s one of the things I really value in the Army — is the honors and traditions that go with this great service.”
In true Army tradition, the cake cutting was assisted by the oldest- and youngest-serving Soldiers here, along with the longest- and shortest-tenured civilian employees.
The oldest-serving Soldier here, Maj. Kay Bolin, with the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity; and the youngest Soldier here, Pfc. Aneth Zo-Chi’Wa Hernandez, with 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment; assisted MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Arzabala with one cake, while the longest-tenured civilian here, Carolyn Shamburger, with the Directorate of Human Resources; and the shortest-tenured civilian here, Jon Rigsby, with the MSCoE Homeland Defense Civil Support Office; assisted Beck.
After the cake was cut, the 399th Army Band performed a set of music before Fort Leonard Wood’s celebration culminated with a Retreat ceremony, performed by attendees of the MSCoE NCO Academy, some of whom also wore period uniforms, from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Before the sounding of Retreat, Beck said “the colors of our nation have symbolized and continue to symbolize our freedom, our foundation and our future.”
“248 years ago today — before this flag was flown — the Continental Congress was in a debate, whether to commit to war or to negotiate peace with Great Britain. Despite the uncertainty, they resolved that the colonies would together raise forces. And so, on June 14, 1775, the United States Army was born, and since that day, the nation’s Army has remained ready. Our Army requires a service that is higher than self; our military, civilians alike swear an oath, not to a religion, tradition or a person, but to the United States Constitution. And our military members, tethered to our profession of arms, our values and our ethic, willingly accept considerable discomfort, risk and sacrifice, knowing they are receiving the satisfaction of service — of developing the next generation and of the irreplaceable camaraderie that comes with being on a winning team.”
More photos from throughout the day are available to view and download on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.