By Jeff CrawleyJune 21, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Fort Sill celebrated the Army's 237th birthday and Flag Day with a ceremony June 14 outside McNair Hall.
Hundreds of service members, employees, family, friends and leaders from the Lawton-Fort Sill community attended the annual, half-hour morning celebration.
Since 1775, the Soldiers, their families and civilians have been the strength of our nation at peace and at war, said speaker Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.
"Today's Army is engaged in nearly 150 countries," McDonald said. "We're on six of the seven continents. We have over 94,000 Soldiers deployed."
In his invocation, Chaplain (Col.) Jerry Jones, installation chaplain, said: "Lord, may these flags we see today be a reflection of the people of the United States of America, and the sign of promise to others that equal justice under governing insures progressive victory over tyranny and evil."
McDonald said that Americans are very fortunate for so many things.
"At the top of this list is the men and women, who serve in our Army, our Marines, our Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, our Public Health Service, our first responders, our teachers and all of those who make this experiment in living free possible."
The U.S. flag invokes many emotions including pride, honor, duty and hope, McDonald said.
"Pride: To be a citizen of a country that was founded on the right to become a better country, a freer country. A country whose goals include equality to all," McDonald said. "Honor: To be part of something that is about good for all and justice for all. Duty: This experiment in democracy requires work to be part of, to work for and to sacrifice. Hope: To work for the next generation."
Flag bearers smartly marched into place with historic U.S. flags as program narrator John Starling, the "Voice of Fort Sill," described their significance, while the 77th U.S. Army Band "Pride of Fort Sill" played.
"The first flags adopted by the colonial settlers were symbolic of the struggle in the new land," Starling said. "Some of the first flags featured pine trees, beavers and rattlesnakes."
Starling noted for its first 181 years the Army did not have a standard flag to represent the entire organization.
"The official U.S. Army flag was first unfurled on June 14, 1956, at a ceremony at Independence Hall in Philadelphia," he said.
During the ceremony, the service's battle campaign streamers were placed atop the Army flag.
Streamers from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom were placed by Staff Sgt. Jedadiah Smith, A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, as Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Richard Burns, post color guard, steadfastly clutched the Army flag.
The ceremony ended with a birthday cake cutting with the post's youngest Soldier, Pvt. Joseph Nelson, 17, a recruit in basic combat training, and McDonald slicing the cake together with a sword. The tradition symbolized the converging of the energy and enthusiasm of young Soldiers with the experience and wisdom of senior leaders.
Nelson, from Comfort, W.Va., said it was an honor to cut the cake.
"I didn't think I'd get to do any ceremony like this in basic," said Nelson, who graduates this week and will go on to advanced individual training at Sheppard Air Force Base to study plumbing.
Another young patriot at the ceremony was Alexandra Noack, 19, a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, who will begin her sophomore year this fall. She said the birthday celebration showed how great the Army institution has been.
"It also shows that people still support the Army because of everything it has done for America," said Noack, of Hartland, Wis.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Miller, Fort Sill Garrison CSM and 29-year Soldier, said the Army birthday was a time to reflect on the accomplishments of Soldiers, the sacrifices they have made and the pride they exhibit.
"I feel good about wearing the uniform, about being a Soldier and what it represents, and to be a part of something so special," Miller said. "Twenty-nine years - if I had to do it over I'd go the same route."