By Dena O'DellJune 13, 2008
Like a block of sharp cheddar cheese or a favorite pair of blue jeans, some things get better with age and the U.S. Army is no different, said Col. Ricky Gibbs, 1st Infantry Division chief of staff during the Army's 233rd Birthday Celebration June 11 at Fort Riley.
Gibbs was the speaker at the event, which honored the Army's birthday with a cake cutting ceremony in front of the U.S. Cavalry Museum on Main Post.
Before Gibb's remarks, the 1st Inf. Div. Band performed and a brief history about the Army was read. During the reading, Fort Riley Soldiers dressed in periodic military uniforms representing Soldiers from each war era - beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - marched to the front of the audience.
Since its birth on June 14, 1775, the Army has been at the forefront of defending freedom, the nation and the values upon which it was founded, Gibbs told the audience.
"Indeed, I am happy to say that even well into its 233rd year, the U.S. Army is becoming more flexible, more innovative and better prepared to tackle the new challenges that we face every day," he said.
But in its beginnings, the Army did not always have such a bright prognosis, with even Gen. George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, casting his doubts, Gibbs said. With shortages of food, supplies, medicine, ammunition and sometimes leadership, the Army endured its share of misery and hardships.
"Yet the United States would not be here today as it is without the courage and tenacity those citizen Soldiers, who against all odds and despite all of the hardships they faced, followed through on the simple vow that 'We will be free.' This has been the Army's proud calling every since its earliest days," he said.
The mere mention of battles like Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Normandy and now Baghdad and Tikrit, bring to mind the United State's storied history, he said.
"The brave men and women who have worn this uniform have served not only as Soldiers, but as diplomats - not just as warfighters, but as peacekeepers," Gibbs remarked, also relating that all Soldiers and their Families are heroes.
Gibbs related the story about one such hero, Spc. Ross McGinnis, who recently was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for making the ultimate sacrifice so that other Soldiers could live.
"Our Army's history is full of heroes like Spc. McGinnis," Gibbs said. "The Army's stories are America's stories - where men and women are judged not by race, religion or Family heritage, but by merit. Anyone with the desire to serve and anyone with the drive and talent will excel.
"Since our early days to the generations that followed, and amid the conflicts and hardships, millions of Americans have risked their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor," he continued. "They risk it to defend America's ideals and its missions...Every man and woman serving in uniform is helping to start a new chapter in that glorious history. Today, we celebrate that glorious history and the Soldiers who helped that history."
Following his remarks, Gibbs, along with Pvt. Christopher Ortega with the 1st Replacement Company, representing the youngest Soldier with the division, cut the cake with a saber. The ceremony ended with the band playing The Big Red One and Army songs.