Basic Camp

Happy Birthday Dear Army

By: Adrienne Vititoe

Commanding General Peggy Combs and cadet Caitlyn Lee cut the Army's birthday cake. U.S. Army photo by Aly Kruse

Commanding General Peggy Combs and cadet Caitlyn Lee cut the Army’s birthday cake. U.S. Army photo by Aly Kruse

“What’s up? Happy freaking birthday! My name’s Andy and it feels so good to be here,” said singer-songwriter Andy Grammer to a crowd of cheering fans.

Sunday the United States Army celebrated 240 years of service to the nation, and here at Fort Knox we had a little pre-party Saturday night. As a part of the celebration three bands came out to perform: Vertical Horizon, Andy Grammer and Phillip Phillips.

Cadets, cadre and civilians alike came out to join in the festivity. Gates opened at 6 p.m. and before long, Godman Airfield was filled with people talking, singing and dancing. Before the main act, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday to You” to the Army and Commanding General Peggy Combs brought the youngest cadet on stage to cut the birthday cake.

Caitlyn Lee, CIET cadet from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, was eating up every moment.

“I always thought it’d be someone younger than me but apparently I’m the youngest,” Lee said. “It’s pretty crazy. I’m really excited. The Army is amazing and I’ve been here for a couple days and I love it more and more every day. I’m so excited to see what the future holds.”

Lee was not the only one amped up about the Army’s big day. Audience members had only the best to say about the U.S. Army and the opportunity to come together and celebrate it.

“It’s a pretty unique experience,” said Mel Mather, CIET cadet from the University of North Alabama in Florence. “You’re just like ‘Oh I get to celebrate the Army’s birthday at a party for the Army.’ It’s great to be a part of something that’s bigger than everything else.”

“I looked up what was going on at Fort Knox before I got here and I saw that there was a Phillip Phillips concert and I was like ‘Oh that’s so cool- too bad I’ll be training’ and I got to go,” said Maggie Rothberger, CIET cadet from University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It feels pretty exciting, you know, being a part of something that’s so big and has such a large history, especially to be on base at the time – a base that’s so huge and has a lot going on.”

“This’ll be the first time I’ve ever celebrated it with like this many people so it’s pretty cool,” said Nick Boyce, cadet from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

“It’s actually pretty cool cause I’m not even contracted yet but it’s cool to see how big of a deal it is for everyone,” said Kyle Trietley, CIET cadet from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York. “It’s like a comradery thing and it makes me want to be a bigger part of the Army family.”

“This is the best army,” said Max Rodgers, CIET cadet from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. “If the U.S. military was a baseball team they’d be the New York Yankees.”

“I like it because I’ve always been in a military family,” said Hannah Baker from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. “I guess it’s like home.”

Many of the other attendees had a similar story to share.

“My dad was a captain in the Army,” said Kevin Combs, CLC cadet from Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. “My great grandfather was in the military too. It feels good to carry on the family tradition and also to carry on the legacy of what makes this country so great.”

“It’s an awesome family tradition,” said Skyler Frazier, CLC cadet from “THE Marshall University” in Huntington, West Virginia. “Everybody in my family joins. [All the men in my family] have all been on post for the Army’s birthday at some point in their career.”

“Both my grandfathers were in the Army,” said Patrick Ward, cadet from Old Dominion University. “My great uncle fought in World War II. Bombed Nazis for a living. Shot down three times. Captured three times. Escaped three times. I’m surprised they gave him a plane after the second time. It’s a great honor to be a part of it. I mean especially something that’s been going on for almost 250 years now. It’s amazing really.”

Because the Army has had such a profound influence on the lives of many, cadets and locals had some special birthday messages for the Army and the men and women who make it up:

“Happy birthday. Thank you to everyone who’s served and who’s currently serving.” -Trietley

“Happy birthday to the best military force on the planet.” -Rodgers

“Happy birthday and thank you for just being a part of my life because I can’t imagine not growing up in a military family.” -Baker

“Stay strong.” -Rothberger

“Keep on keeping on.” -Boyce

“Happy birthday and keep on going.” -Steven Wallace from Elizabethtown

“Be safe and thank you.” -Sabrina Schwartz from Elizabethtown

“Thank you for all you do and especially your families.” -Andrea Hook from San Francisco State University

“Stay motivated and always drive on.” -Eddie Quinton II from Missouri Western State University in Saint Joseph

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Adrienne Vititoe

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