By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleJune 16, 2011
The Fort Belvoir Garrison Command celebrated the Army’s 236th birthday as well as the 234th birthday of the American flag on Tuesday at Abbott Hall.
The more than 400 Army Soldiers, civilians and Family members in attendance sat respectfully as Chaplain (Col.) Phillip Hill gave the invocation which was followed by introductory remarks from Garrison Commander Col. John Strycula.
Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, Army Cyber Command, commanding general, also spoke.
Hill said he is thankful our nation has been blessed with the gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and an Army that has stood proud for over two centuries.
“This flag so well represents the inner spirit of our citizens and the fire of liberty we all carry so openly in our hearts,” said Hill. “I wanted to show the link between the Army birthday and our flag.”
Strycula focused on the history and significance of the American Flag, beginning with President Woodrow Wilson’s designation in 1916 of June 14, as Flag Day.
The colonel talked about Francis Scott Key penning the words of the Star Spangled Banner while watching the flag fly over Fort McHenry in 1814, and how the flag has adorned the caskets of those that who were lost during the Civil War, Vietnam, and Korea, plus how the flag was tested on the beaches of Normandy and the islands of the Pacific.
“I was trying to get across the importance of the flag and what it has meant to the Army over the years,” said Strycula. “It’s interesting that they both have the same birthday of June 14 because the Army fights and supports under that flag.”
Strycula also asked those in attendance to not forget the more than 120,000 soldiers currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and never take for granted “that this piece of material is delicate, just like the freedom we hold so dear.”
He also said the opportunity to celebrate the Army is a little more special to him being a career officer.
“The Army’s an enduring enterprise,” said Strycula “It has traditions and it’s going to continue into the future, but (today) it remembers where it came from.”
Hernandez, who was celebrating his 40th Army birthday in uniform, began his speech with an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday!” then spoke about the formation of the Army in 1775, the sacrifices of soldiers throughout history, and asked that everyone keep the soldiers that are currently serving overseas in their prayers.
The General took off his beret and donned his Army combat uniform patrol cap while saying “effective today, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to wear this uniform with my ACU patrol cap.”
“Be proud that you’re part of the most disciplined, competent, and fit force in the world,” said Hernandez. “Maintain the trust that unites us as Soldiers and Americans.”
Debra Taylor, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Marketing Director heard an attending soldier say “Thank God” to no longer having to wear his beret.
Taylor also said DFMWR bought 300 hot dogs for the event; all of which were consumed.
“We get folks who are interested and proud to be a part of the ceremony,” said Taylor. “They were generally impressed with the ceremony.”
Installation Historian, Gus Person, gave a history of Army uniforms from the beginning of the Army to the present. He had the help of re-enactors dressed in uniforms throughout the ages.
Person gave the history of the 1st Virginia Regiment, the 4th U.S. Infantry, the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion and the 1st Bn. 508th Parachute Inf.
The 508th Parachute Infantry was shown by Sergeant Charles Groffel who is now assigned to the Dewitt Hospital Army Healthcare Network.
“It’s another great example of how the Army is big on traditions and remembering its history,” said Strycula.
Celebrating his 23rd Army birthday, Strycula was pleased with the ceremony and all the effort that went into putting it together.
“It’s a great day to celebrate what the Army’s done,” said Strycula.
Other birthday events on Fort Belvoir included an art expo, Child, Youth and School Services Annual Flag Day Parade, a puppet show and a toddler activity.