By Kari HJune 27, 2012
Spc. Anthony Striano, 22, thought he was "old" to be considered a young Soldier.
But there he was on Thursday, cutting the Army birthday cake as the youngest Soldier at Redstone Arsenal.
"You get to do a lot of things in the Army," said the Army Materiel Command Band trumpet player. "I thought I was old. But it's pretty cool to know I might be the youngest of everybody here."
And as Army tradition goes, the youngest and oldest Soldiers at Redstone get the honor each year of cutting the Army birthday cake presented by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army during Armed Forces Celebration Week. On Thursday -- the Army's 237th birthday -- Striano was joined by Aviation and Missile Command's Command Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell, Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton and AMCOM Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Leon Kircher to cut the Army birthday cake in a picnic-style Army birthday celebration at the Community Activity Field.
"I first heard rumors that I might be the one doing this," Striano said. "Then, a couple of days ago, they told me I was the one."
Striano, who has played the trumpet for about 13 years, grew up near Jacksonville, Fla., and joined the Army just a year ago. With a few years of college-level music courses to his credit, he decided the Army offered some of the best opportunities for an aspiring professional musician who also wanted to have a stable job, a worthwhile career and a chance to travel the world playing music.
It hasn't always been easy, though. Basic training was tough and so was adjusting to being away from family and friends. But with his family's support, Striano knew he was on the right path with the Army.
"My family raised me up right with pretty good values. So, it wasn't at all bad learning to live by the Army values," he said. "My parents were thrilled with the idea of me joining the Army. They were pushing for it the whole time while I was considering it.
"There are so many great opportunities for a musician in the Army. Not only do I have a stable job, but I can go back and finish college. There's a big possibility that I will strive for making sergeant major in the band. And my friends and I have talked about using the Green to Gold program to become officers."
Then, of course, as the youngest, there's the benefit you get from having plenty of mentors playing instruments right there with you in the band.
"There are surprises every day. I find out new things all the time," Striano said. "Everybody is giving me advice all the time. It's like when you think someone has a lot of potential, you want to give them all you got."
Glidewell, who, as AMCOM's senior enlisted adviser, represented the oldest Soldier at Redstone for the cake cutting ceremony, has been mentoring and advising young Soldiers for much of his nearly 30-year Army career. During that time, he's had lots of opportunities to celebrate the Army birthday.
"This is one day out of the year when we come together to celebrate the Army's lineage," Glidewell said. "It's a time to celebrate those who have come before us and those folks who will come after us."
With less than 1 percent of the nation's population serving in the military, the Army has a reputation for having some of the best of America in its ranks. Glidewell said he has always appreciated those holidays that recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the nation's military, including Memorial Day and Veterans Day. But the Army birthday holds a special place in his heart.
"Today is the day that actually focuses on our Army and what our Army does for this great nation," he said.
"This Army is made up of young Americans who will be the leaders of tomorrow who will represent not only our nation but the American taxpayer in the best light. The youngest Soldier here today represents our future while the oldest Soldier represents those individuals who have served. Together, they show the linkage between the future Army and where the Army has been."
The audience at the cake cutting ceremony included many Soldiers who serve at Redstone. It's those men and women in uniform who have set the bar for the standard of living in Huntsville and its way of life, said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
"Redstone Arsenal is more than a place to work. It's a way of life and you protect our way of life," Battle told the audience.
"We've built a great tradition here. We can maintain the type of life we want and you have done the heavy lifting for us."
Madison Mayor Paul Finley said he enjoys representing Madison at the area's patriotic and military events.
"I told (my administrative assistant) that I get to go celebrate the Army's birthday today," he said. "That's one of my joys. So many times I have the honor of representing our city at events like this. … Thank you for what you are doing each and every day."
Speaking on behalf of Redstone Arsenal, Hamilton thanked the volunteers and corporate sponsors who made possible the ceremony as well as all the events of Armed Forces Celebration Week. Sponsors for the AUSA-hosted birthday celebration were DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and VT Group. The event was supported by the Garrison and its Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation organization.
"We appreciate all the efforts you put in here for us," Hamilton told AUSA and its sponsors. "We appreciate the work you have done."
Although the Army's birthday is a time for celebrating with cake and ice cream, Hamilton said it's also a time for reflection.
"It's a day to stop and pause and reflect on what our Army means to us and to our nation," he said. "The Army has a history of 237 years of incredible sacrifice."
Hamilton expects those birthdays will be celebrated and reflected upon for at least another 237 years.
"Someone else will be up here then talking about this incredible nation and the Army that has served it well," he said. "This is an opportunity to stop and reflect upon that, and to remember how important it is what we do for our nation each and every day."