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Walter Reed Celebrates Army’s 242nd Birthday


DHA Senior Enlisted Advisor Salutes ‘One Team, Skilled and Resolute’

By Bernard S. Little
WRNMMC Command Communications

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center celebrated the 242nd birthday of the U.S. Army during a special flag ceremony June 8 in front of the historic Tower on Naval Support Activity Bethesda.

The U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which the Continental Congress established June 14, 1775 to fight the American Revolutionary War.
“If you look back in our history, we’ve always been early,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Robert C. Luciano, guest speaker at the ceremony, referencing the WRNMMC’s celebration held nearly a week before the actual Army birthday.
“The founding of the Army came before the Declaration of Independence. Said another way, we had an Army before we had a nation,” Luciano continued.
“That tells you something about how important our Army has been to this nation. Our Army has been there at every important moment from the founding of our country to today,” added Luciano, senior enlisted advisor of the Defense Health Agency. He is the first Army senior noncommissioned officer to hold the position, serving as the personal advisor to the DHA director on all issues associated with the readiness, morale, welfare and utilization for the 2,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and civilian personnel assigned at 29 locations world-wide supporting the DHA.
“If you look at our Army, we’ve gone from one that marched with a single-shot rifle around some of what is now the United States of America, to an Army that can put 1,000 paratroopers in aircraft, land them on your doorstep and they’re as lethal as can be globally. Or with the help of the Navy and the Air Force, put 1,000 tanks in your backyard and put steel on target from so far away you’re out of range to fire back. That’s an Army,” Luciano stated.
“We used to be the biggest and the baddest Army on the face of this planet,” Luciano continued. “Now, we’re a lean, mean fighting machine and the baddest Army on this planet. No Army yet has endured what we’ve done, and our battle streamers tell some of that story,” he added.
Luciano said Soldiers are universal with the ability to adapt, improvise and overcome. “I’ve proudly served in harm’s way with many of them,” he continued. The command sergeant major has served two combat deployments in Iraq, in addition to numerous other assignments worldwide.
While saluting all service members, Luciano said he has served alongside a “special group” of Soldiers throughout his nearly 34-year military career, Army medics. He added the Continental Congress established the Hospital Department on July 27, 1775, almost a year before America was born on July 4, 1776. “So Army medics were there ready to fight and take care of the wounded warrior before our nation was established,” he said.
“Soldier medics were there with General Washington, General Pershing, General Eisenhower, General Powell, General Petraeus and many other distinguished leaders. Over the last 242 years, we have always been there, from Valley Forge to Baghdad, Balad and beyond,” Luciano added.
“I am proud of our role in our great nation’s history. I’m proud to be a Soldier, and I’m proud to work with the men and women of this country and all around the globe protecting [our] ideals,” Luciano continued. “As a Soldier standing here today, you’ve earned every right to look sharp, stand tall and be proud.”
The DHA senior enlisted advisor added those in Army medicine have worked in “a larger formation – the Joint Force,” more frequently in recent years. He said working with the formations of the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and coalition partners has made the Army better, enhanced esprit de corps and resulted in the highest survival rate in the history of warfare. “Along the way, we’ve learned a lot, and it’s made medicine stronger and better around the globe.
“We are One Team, skilled and resolute,” he concluded.
The Army flag ceremony followed Luciano’s remarks. Army Sgt. Maj. Marc Selby, chief clinical NCO at WRNMMC, explained the U.S. Army’s history is displayed in its colors, linage, campaigns and commendations. “The [Army] flag has been used by the U.S. Army for 242 years to signal and rally its troops. For Soldiers, it is a proud symbol of the importance of Army history.”
He added the story of the Army’s flag and campaign streamers “is intricate and delicate involving a great multitude of the Army’s most prominent leaders. It has traveled around the world and has been present on every front for each of its heroic battles. It has withstood the test of time and serves as a beacon representing the fighting spirit of our warriors, present and past.”
WRNMMC Director Col. Michael S. Heimall said the Army flag ceremony isn’t done very often, but when it is it serves as “a powerful reminder of the service of the Army, the armed forces as a whole, and more importantly, the men and women who wear the uniform today, who have worn the uniform in the past, and the sacrifices those who will wear the uniform in the future, make for their country.
“To be able to do [the flag ceremony] at Walter Reed, a sacred place where we get to care for our nation’s most severely wounded service members regardless of what uniform they wear, is special,” the colonel added.
Soldiers representing WRNMMC, DHA and the U.S. Army participated in the flag ceremony. Each placed one or more of the 189 battle streamers the Army has earned throughout its history on the flagpole bearing the Army flag as Selby read a little about the history of those battles.
“Our Army has earned many honors in its 242 years of service. However, we must never forget it was the men and women of our nation who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms,” Selby said. “Even today, Soldiers are deployed around the world protecting the freedoms we hold dear. They are not alone. Our Soldiers will always place the mission first. They will never accept defeat. They will never quit, and they will never leave a fallen comrade.”
Following the flag ceremony, Heimall, Luciano and WRNMMC Command Master Chief Tyrone Willis were joined by Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John O’Grady, representing WRNMMC’s oldest Soldier, and Pvt. Kodi Nailon, representing WRNMMC’s youngest Soldier, to cut the Army birthday cake.
The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Army song.