By Chelsea Place, Pentagram NewspaperJune 20, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va., June 20, 2011 -- Twenty-three different units made up of more than 1,000 Soldiers gathered June 17 at Summerall Field’s parking lot on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., for the 236th Army birthday run.
Celebrating those who have served past and present, the units made the three-mile run through base loud and motivational, as they yelled out "Hooah" and sang cadences on the streets.
Just before 7 a.m. when the run began, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III spoke to the assembled Soldiers and announced that due to law enforcement work in Arlington National Cemetery there would be an altered run route.
Making roll call a competition, Chandler had each unit yell as loud as they could when their organization’s name was called. Upon completion of roll call, Chandler continued to talk about the strength and history of the Army.
“What I want you to think about is ‘what does birthday mean?’” said Chandler. “Two-hundred-and-thirty-six years. I’d like you to really reflect on why you call cadence to the sacrifice of all our Soldiers and families throughout the 236 years and what is going on today.”
Upon conclusion of his speech Chandler got the Soldiers in formation hyped for the run by having everyone yell “Hooah” at the top of their lungs before yelling out himself “Let’s go run!”
After completing the run, the troops returned to Summerall Field with sweat running down their shirts, tired but ready for the day. After grabbing water, they got back into formation for Director of the Army Staff Lt. Gen. William J. Troy.
“When you stop to think about what makes the U.S. Army the best Army in the world, we all know it’s our noncommissioned officer corps,” said Troy. “They give us the discipline, the fitness and the mental physical toughness that makes us what we are.”
“For 236 years this Army has never let this nation down and we never will,” he said. “It’s great to be out here with Soldiers and noncommissioned officers on the Army birthday to celebrate being part of the greatest Army in the world.”
For those who ran in the 236th Army Birthday Run, not running in Arlington National Cemetery was a bit of a disappointment.
“It’s a solemn experience going through and seeing all those heroes who have given up their lives whether in combat or afterward, so it was kind of a disappointment,” said Lt. Col. Cameron A. Leiker, commander, Headquarters Command Battalion.
Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Vance of the National Guard Bureau compared running through the cemetery to a double-edged sword. On one hand you get an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but on the other you have the chance to really reflect on what you’re fighting for and see all those warriors that have fallen, he said.
“When you look to the side, it is all warriors. Everybody in that cemetery is a warrior, so it kind of kicks it home for you,” said Vance.
The run went out Henderson Hall’s Gate One and came back in Gate Three where the formation continued on South Gate Road. Soldiers completed the run back at Summerall Field.
“Like the director of Army staff said, ‘We didn’t start this Army, we just get to take care of it for a short portion of time,’” said runner Lt. Col. James Cutting, with the G3/5/7 at the Pentagon.