By Giselle BodinJune 13, 2008
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command celebrated the Army's 233rd Birthday on June 13 at the Von Braun Complex here. The event was hosted by the SMDC/ARSTRAT historical office.
The celebration kicked off at 8:30 a.m. in the courtyard behind building 5220 with opening remarks by Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, SMDC/ARSTRAT commanding general.
Campbell then introduced the special guest speaker for the event, Cpl. Newton Duke, a veteran of the Korean War and Purple Heart recipient. Duke survived 27 months as a Prisoner of War in North Korea from 1951-1953 and was wounded seven times throughout his career.
"We are honored to have Mr. Duke here to celebrate with us today ... his actions during the [Korean] war made a difference to the people of our nation," said Campbell. "He embodies the attributed of the Warrior Ethos -- he is the face that lives it."
"I would do it [volunteer for the Army] again if I had to," Duke commented. "I love the Army and what it stands for, and I love America."
Following Duke's remarks was the Army birthday cake-cutting ceremony.
In alignment with Army tradition, the youngest and the eldest command Soldiers typically make the ceremonial first cut. Campbell, as the eldest, deferred this honor to Duke. Staff Sgt. Jimmy Ayala, as the youngest command Soldier, performed the ceremonial cut along with Duke. They cut the cake with an antique Army saber provided by the historical office.
The birthday celebration featured costumed interpreters representing 11 different eras in American military history. This "historical timeline" was set up in the courtyard on the north side of the building.
Living history volunteers included representatives of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Seacoast Artillery, the Seminole War, the Civil War, Indian Wars, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
Most of these volunteers are amateur historians who take part in similar memorials and living historical events on their own time, using their own uniforms and equipment for the benefit of educating the local community. Each of them had a wealth of knowledge on the Army historical era they represented, providing short descriptions and answering questions as visitors stopped at their stations.
Three of the volunteers were SMDC/ARSTRAT employees who were outfitted with historical office uniforms -- Stephen Hutson of the Technical Interoperability and Matrix Center, John Yim of the Office of New Initiatives and Innovations, and Sgt. 1st Class Erika White of the Equal Opportunity Office.
Yim represented the Vietnam War Soldier of 1975 and later. Yim said that his uniform was similar to the uniform he wore when he was part of the 187th Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell from 1993-1995.
The helmet was different because it included room for "bug juice" (insect repellant) and cigarettes. Vietnam Soldiers also wore jungle boots, which were better suited to their surrounding environment.
Though he is not a regular interpreter, Yim was pleased to be "drafted," as he said, by the historical office.
"It is an honor to participate in this Army birthday celebration, and I feel like this is a way I can pay tribute to all the Vietnam Soldiers who fought for our nation," said Yim.
Yim's sentiment was shared by many others who shared their knowledge with visitors from SMDC/ARSTRAT, the Missile Defense Agency and the community. Other volunteers were from organizations such as Calhoun Community College, PEO Aviation, AMRDEC, Florence Public School, Alabama Veterans Museum, MDA, and PEO Missiles and Space.
Another interesting component of the day's events included musket and cannon firing demonstrations that were held on a rotating basis every half-hour.
Mark Hubbs of the SMDC/ARSTRAT historical office explained the day's activities as a "celebration and event that could give attendees insight into the history of the Army and the history of its Soldiers."