Bay Ridge celebrates U.S. Army’s birthday

Captain America: Vasila Niamonitakis tries on a real Army helmet at the 237th Army Birthday Party at John Paul Jones Park on June 13.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Fort Hamilton and Rep. Michael Grimm threw a 200-plus person party in John Paul Jones Park to commemorate the U.S. Army’s 237th birthday on June 14, complete with music, speeches, and even a ceremonial “cutting” of a “cake.”

The Army base’s spokewoman Alison Kohler said the event drew its inspiration from a call Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno — who himself celebrated the date in the city — for garrisons to forge stronger bonds with their civilian neighbors.

“He wanted us to celebrate and reconnect with our communities,” Kohler said, adding that soldiers at the base spent the week leading into the anniversary visiting Brooklyn senior and civic centers, and welcoming guests from Fort Drumm’s 10th Mountain Division. The fort also attempted to enlist elected officials for support a few weeks in advance of the birthday bash, and Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) stepped forward.

When Grimm addressed the soldiers and Brooklyn residents assembled for the event, he said his own service as a United States Marine in the first Gulf War made him want to get involved.

“Today, I am reminded of the ideals that burned in my heart when I was a 19 year old who was ready to fight and die for this country,” the congressman said.

Grimm then led a candle-lighting ceremony and a reading of the Army’s history. The formality ended with a symbolic slicing of a cardboard cake with a saber, then real cake and coffee for everyone under a tent.

Kohler said the day was just as much about honoring civilians as those enlisted in the Army.

“It was an opportunity to bring all those soldiers to meet with the community and thank them for their support, since we’ve spent the last 10 years at war,” said Kohler.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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