By Roger M. DeyJune 19, 2010
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - Members of United States Force - Iraq gathered in the rotunda of Al Faw Palace to celebrate 235 years of U.S. Army history with a battle streamer ceremony and cake cutting June 14.
Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, USF - I deputy commanding general for operations and III Corps commander, who presided over the event spoke on the accomplishments of American Soldiers since 1775.
"Again and again we have seen that even under the most trying circumstances, Army Soldiers have risen to the occasion," he said. "We should be extremely proud of the contributions we have made, particularly in the last 100 years, in bringing security and prosperity to millions."
Service members, dignitaries and guests rose as the sound of a drum-roll filled the palace. The III Corps color guard emerged from between a pair of immense pillars and posted the flags of the United States, the U.S. Army and USF-I beneath the enormous American flag that covers three stories of the rotunda. The white Army flag, emblazoned with the motto "This We'll Defend," took the spotlight for the battle streamer ceremony, commemorating the campaigns in which the Army has been involved since 1775.
The history of the Army's actions was read, from Bunker Hill to Iraqi Freedom. The Army's flag was slowly lowered at the end of each reading. Each time, the campaign streamers for that conflict were fastened to the top of the flagstaff, until the banner was nearly hidden by the mass of 183 brightly colored ribbons.
Following the battle streamer ceremony, Cone paid credit to the Soldiers who make up the Army team in his remarks.
"Today's Army is as strong and professional as it has ever been. Its strength comes from its greatest asset: America's sons and daughters," he said. "As it has been for the last 235 years, it is our Soldiers, both active and reserve, who are the heart of our Army."
The celebration culminated with the arrival of the Army birthday cake, escorted by the youngest Soldier in USF-I, 19 year-old Spc. Jessica Randon, from Phoenix, Ariz., and the oldest Soldier, 64 year-old Chaplain (Col.) William D. Willett, a native of Fancy Farm, Ky. They joined Cone and his senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Major Arthur L. Coleman, Jr., in cutting the cake with a cavalry saber.
Willet, who retired from the Army in 2005 with 26 years active duty returned in 2009 to help fill the need for catholic priests in the Army, hoped the event made Soldiers proud to be part of the Army.
"I hope hearing the history makes them proud to be part of the organization. When I started out, I was a young infantry Soldier and went to Vietnam in '67. Things were a whole lot different than they are now," he said. "I hope this reminds all the people here of all that the Army has accomplished through the years."