Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon
345th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Service members participated in a ceremony here June 14 to celebrate the U.S. Army’s 231st birthday.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines recognized U.S. Army troops, both present and past, for their dedication and service to our country since the Army was created June 14, 1775.
“This 231st celebration of our birthday reminds us of our history; our traditions, which you see displayed before you, from our national colors to our Army colors, gloriously in splendor with all those battle streamers flowing from it (signifying) where Soldiers served their nation so selflessly,” said Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, Combined Joint Task Force-76 commander, to hundreds of service members present at the ceremony.
Standing in front of three U.S. Army helicopters at the flight line here, where some of the earliest battles of the global war on terrorism were fought, Freakley stressed the importance of the U.S. Army throughout history.
“The American Army has fought in over 10 wars in its 231 years; from the Revolution, to the global war on terror,” Freakley said. “Ten wars of Soldiers laying their lives down on the battlefield. Just like yesterday when we lost two of our brothers (in Afghanistan) and were reminded of the sacrifice that Soldiers make to preserve liberty and freedom, not only in America, but in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world.”
Freakley reminded everyone of the important role the U.S. Army plays in the welfare of our country.
“It has played and continues to play a vital role in the growth and the development of the United States of America,” Freakley said. “It is the Soldier who guarantees the freedom and the democracy of the United States of America that allows the nation to enjoy its many successes and its stature in the world and indeed allows our citizens to live their lives in pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Two Soldiers from the ranks of thousands serving here as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, took center stage during the ceremony to share their personal thoughts about the significance of the Army’s 231st birthday.
“Today is the Army’s birthday, and when I think of this occasion, one word comes to mind: legacy,” said Sgt. Stephanie A. Van Geete, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Combat Aviation Battalion.
Our forefathers “created a legacy that lives on today in the bodies of each of you standing before me,” she said.
“I stand here on the Army’s 231st birthday, serving one year of those 231 years and am looking forward to many more,” Pfc. Jason S. McFarland, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 240th Engineer Group, said to his fellow Soldiers. “It’s an honor to protect and defend, side by side with you and the people of Afghanistan, working together to build an independent state free of oppression. I am proud of all of you, and I am proud to stand in your ranks.”
During the ceremony, leaders presented Soldiers with 10th Mountain Division (LI) “combat patches” for their service in OEF.
Soldiers assigned to units participating in Operation Enduring Freedom are authorized to wear the shoulder sleeve insignia for former wartime service, said Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Borja, CJTF-76 command sergeant major.
“More commonly referred to as the ‘combat patch,’ the insignia is awarded to Soldiers who have answered the call to duty and served their nation during a time of war,” Borja said. “This patch represents that they have place boots on the ground and were stationed forward deployed against the enemies of the United States. Today, we place with pride the combat patch of the historic 10th Mountain Division on our right sleeves.”
After the presentation of the “combat patches,” Freakley and Borja led troops in singing both the 10th Mountain Division and Army songs.
Freakley also thanked Soldiers for their service in the U.S. Army.
“I thank each and every one of you assembled here and each of your fellow Soldiers that you represent for doing your duty,” he said. “I thank you for your duty, and I thank you for what you represent as American citizens volunteering to serve in this Army that’s 231 years old.”