The Army turned 238 on Friday and to illustrate the branch’s future, Sickles, the youngest enlisted soldier at Fort Gordon, was chosen as a ceremonial cake cutter.
The 18-year-old characterized the honor as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
President Obama said in a message read aloud to the 200 in attendance that it is because of soldiers such as Sickles that the nation’s armed forces continue to have the confidence and trust of the American people.
“Our first patriots, believing in a democracy they had never known, fought for a nation still only an idea, and beating in the hearts of soldiers in every generation since, this devotion has lived on in brave men and women as they struggled to hold a new union together and defend our way of life,” Obama said. “I am inspired by our soldiers and their extraordinary families who serve alongside them. On behalf of a grateful nation, I salute the United States Army on 238 years of service.”
Fort Gordon’s birthday celebration was heavy on tradition. Soldiers chronicled the history of Army service uniforms, and senior leaders renewed the covenant Fort Gordon has with local communities and military families.
“Without strong civilian control and steadfast support, our Army would not exist, certainly not for 238 years,” said Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, the commanding general at Fort Gordon. He also recognized the sacrifice and commitment of military families and pledged to continue to foster the partnerships Fort Gordon has with the state and local communities.
“We cannot have one without the other,” Patterson said.
Sickles, who came to the Augusta area from Green Bay, Wis., said when his sergeant informed him he was the youngest enlisted soldier at the post, he thought he was joking. Now, he is grateful he could play a significant role in the Army’s birthday.
“It is very cool to be a part of something so meaningful,” Sickles said. “I have never been a part of anything like this. Tradition-wise, I love all of this and I am so happy to be here.”