Army celebrates 232 years of service
Soldiers at Fort Leavenworth celebrated the Army's 232nd birthday Thursday with cake, song and remembrances of soldiers of long ago.
For many of those gathered for the ceremony on the Main Parade at the post, the ceremony was a time of reflection, to gather with other soldiers and remind themselves of the ones who came before them.
"It reminds us of the traditions that are so important in our Army," said Brig. Gen. Mark E. O'Neill, acting commander of the Combined Arms Center and commandant of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. "It's important because each soldier walking point around battlefields today is walking in the footsteps of pervious soldiers that have defended the country."
The celebration began with the traditional posting of colors and national anthem, followed by three speeches from current soldiers about why they are proud to be a part of the Army.
Sgt. Oleg Kravchenko, of the 705th Military Police Battalion I/R, said the duty and sacrifice of the Army makes America what it is today. He said freedom isn't free and, like many before him, he was proud to answer his call to duty.
Spc. Eun O'Grady, of the Army's Medical Department Activities, said she was proud to be an American soldier and to set an example as a strong, independent woman.
Pfc. Justin Hudgens, of the Special Troops Battalion, described himself and fellow soldiers as guardians of freedom who stand for dignity, respect and courage.
"Today I carry the torch of freedom to the next generation," Hudgens said. "And for that I am very grateful."
For some, however, the strength in the meaning of the ceremony made it difficult to put how they felt into words.
Sgt. Jennifer Manning said it was a deep honor to participate in the celebration. She said she couldn't explain how strong her feelings were and what it meant to her and her family that she was able to participate.
Manning comes from a long history of Army personnel. She said because her mother, father, brother and four uncles all served in the military and because her husband was currently overseas, the ceremony honored a tradition that has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.
Spc. Cody Brown also found it hard to express the sense of importance that the ceremony showed him about his service in the Army.
He said, "it's a pretty crazy feeling" to think about all the people who've been there before, but said he was grateful for their service.
The cutting of the cake marked the end of the ceremony. As is tradition, the host of the ceremony, the fort's senior enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Jonnie Jones, and the fort's youngest soldier, Pfc. Nicole Murphy, made the first cut of the cake with a saber. The audience followed with cheers and the singing of "The Army Goes Rolling Along," the official song of the Army.
O'Neill said it was great to see current soldiers, former soldiers and the allies that support them come together to celebrate the "history of service to this great nation."
He said in difficult times, such a ceremony was a comfort and gave people the sense of a tradition that has been so strong for 232 years.