It’s been quite a week at Fort Riley, one in which the annual Victory Week has been celebrated between some important birthdays.
The first birthday was Saturday, June 8. It was the 1st Infantry Division’s 96th, and yes, there was cake. The division, which would become known as the Big Red One, was the “Fighting First” during World War I and lived up to its reputation.
The Big Red One wasn’t the 1st Division in name only. It became the first U.S. division to fight in North Africa and was the first division on Omaha Beach. A generation later the Big Red One became the first division called to fight in Vietnam. It has continued to build on its proud history in recent years, with units fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and serving in a number of other countries as well.
No sooner had the division’s birthday been celebrated than Victory Week activities got under way. The most poignant was Wednesday, when troops paused to commemorate the service of 10 members of the Big Red One who were killed in action in 2012. “For soldiers, protecting freedom is a way of life. We’re extending a legacy of those who bought our freedom a long time ago,” said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk, division and post commander.
Other activities during Victory Week, whose purposes include building camaraderie and having some fun through spirited athletic competition, also featured the Victory Run around Custer Hill. The four-mile run was led by Gen. Funk and involved more than 10,000 soldiers.
The second birthday, one that all Americans, not just military personnel, ought to celebrate, is today. It’s the 238th anniversary of the founding of the United States Army.
We’ve come a long way since the days of the Continental Army. We’ve survived and grown as a nation in part because for almost two and a half centuries, men and women such as those in the 1st Infantry Division have answered the call to protect our nation and its freedoms.
As it happens, today, June 14, also is Flag Day. It marks the anniversary of the day in 1777 — two years after the Army was born, that the Second Continental Congress adopted the U.S. flag. June 14 didn’t become Flag Day until President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it so in 1916. An Act of Congress followed 33 years later.
There’s plenty to celebrate today and plenty of ways to do so. One simple way would be to fly the flag at your front door. Flags won’t just beautify neighborhoods, they might remind us how lucky we are to live in this country.