The senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center could think of no better place to spend Presidents Day.

That's why Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness spoke Feb. 20 to members of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, situated at Faneuil Hall in Boston, during its 127th Presidents Day Luncheon. The company has had four presidents -- James Monroe, Chester Arthur, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy -- as members during its illustrious history.

"The people who have gathered throughout the history of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company have made a lasting imprint on the fabric of America," McGuiness told the members and their guests. "The members of the company have served on every battlefield from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.

"It is not very often that you are in the company of the best of the best, people who put their lives on the line to save others, but the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company always seemed to have someone like that in your midst. There have been nine Medal of Honor winners as part of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company."

One of those Medal of Honor recipients -- Thomas Hudner of Fall River, Mass. -- was in the audience who listened as McGuiness spoke about Natick's unique mission to "empower, protect and unburden" not only the Soldier, but the Sailor, Airman, Marine, Special Operator and Coast Guardsman. And NSSC's reach extends beyond that, the commander said.

"We share our technology," McGuiness said. "The National Protection Center (at Natick) works with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and many other state and local agencies to share some of the technology developed for the military so it can also be used to protect our first responders."

McGuiness, also deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, mentioned NSSC's talented and award-winning workforce of nearly 2,000, many of whom hold advanced degrees from aerospace to zoology.

"Those people provide an impact to the service member, but also to the Massachusetts economy," McGuiness said. "Between salaries and contracts, the Natick Soldier Systems Center accounted for close to a half-billion dollars (in 2011) to the Massachusetts economy."

NSSC, said McGuiness, is ideally situated in a region that boasts world-renowned universities, hospitals and industries.

"We are constantly challenging ourselves as a research and development community, asking ourselves, what's next?" McGuiness said. "What is that next disruptive technology? What is the next technology that is going to save the next Soldier in the next fight?"

McGuiness said that the people of NSSC share an unwavering commitment to Soldiers and other American war fighters to make certain that they "never have to go into a fair fight, make sure they always have a dominant advantage. And how can we do that? Through technology and science."