PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - As guests slowly streamed into the Dec. 4 Holiday Ball, Picatinny officials welcomed two familiar faces to the event: former installation commanding general, Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, and his wife Marilyn.

Phillips, the guest speaker, currently serves as the Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Also in attendance was Brig. Gen. Gustave Perna, who recently assumed command of the Joint Munitions Command and the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command.

Brig. Gen. Jonathan Maddux, the installation commanding general, hosted the Holiday Ball along with Dr. Gerardo Melendez, director of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC).

As the host of the event, Maddux initiated a chain of toasts around the room when he said, "I propose a toast to the United States of America," and the guests responded, "To the United States of America."

During the ball, a spotlight highlighted an empty raised table. The master of ceremonies, Matthew Butler, explained to guests why the table had been set, yet no guest was were seated at its lone chair.

"The empty place setting represents Americans who have fallen from each of the five services -Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, and civilians. They are unable to be with us this evening and so we remember them," Butler said.

With a warm welcoming ovation, the guest speaker was introduced. "I'm glad to be back home," Phillips said.

Phillips praised the Picatinny community for the countless number of service member lives that have been saved and protected from harm because of the many technologies developed here.

Legendary New York Yankee baseball player Yogi Berra was unable to attend the ceremony, but he sent a few autographed items that were presented to Phillips, producing a huge smile.

Berra's son Larry and his softball team, the Boys of Summer, played a friendly game against Team Picatinny in August. Phillips attended the game and presented a plaque to the younger Berra to give to his father.

"Yogi was always a hero of mine as I was growing up," Phillips said. "I will cherish this forever."

In a surprise presentation, Phillips' wife Marilyn was honored with the Molly Pitcher award by Col. Scott Turner, the senior artilleryman in the room.

The award recognizes women who have voluntarily contributed in a significant way to the improvement of the U.S. Field Artillery or Air Defense Artillery communities.

When the focus of the ball shifted to the nation's ongoing conflicts, both Maddux and Phillips were heartfelt in describing the sacrifice of uniformed personnel and their need for ongoing support.

"Because our warfighters still are deployed in harm's way fighting insurgents and terrorists, it's sometimes difficult for us to put aside our work and come together as a community to celebrate," Maddux said.

"But tonight we've gathered -Soldiers, civilian employees, military and civilian spouses, friends, representatives of our allies, and our community partners-all for the sole purpose of enjoying each other's company," he said.

After dinner and presentations, colors were retired and the dance floor came alive.

Picatinny's next formal ball celebration will be the Armed Forces Day Ball in May.