- - Monday, June 23, 2014

On June 14, the United States Army celebrated its 239th anniversary with a week of worldwide “birthday” parties. In conjunction with this celebration, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno was Special Military Guest of Honor at the 239th U.S. Army Birthday Gala in New York City on June 12.

The event was hosted by Army Week Association, a nonprofit veterans’ service organization based in New York City. The emcee was Greg Kelly, co-host of “Good Day New York” (Fox 5 New York) and a former White House correspondent for Fox News.

Gen. Odierno, 59, has had a 38-year career in the United States Army, during which he has held command at every level of the 510,000 member force, the country’s largest military service. He is best known to the public for his service in Iraq, where he was a major figure in both the surge of 2006-2008 and the troop drawdown and the transition to indigenous Iraqi military and civilian control which followed. Gen. Odierno is the 12th American military officer in history to command at the Division, Corps, and Army level during the same conflict and only the second to have this honor since the Vietnam War. He assumed his current assignment on Sept. 7, 2011.

A reception was held for Gen. Odierno with guests from the Gold Star Mothers, each of whom lost a son or daughter in service to our country began the festivities. Popular tenor Anthony Kearns, fresh from his appearance in PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert, was introduced by Sgt. Mary Herrera, herself a wounded veteran of the Iraq war. Mr. Kearns sang “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears,” a touching story of a young Irish girl arriving at nearby Ellis Island in 1892, seeking the freedom the Army has safeguarded since June 14, 1775. Mr. Kearns‘ next selection was the ever popular standard, “La Vie en Rose” in French and English. He ended with a rousing rendition of “God Bless America”.

During the dinner following, awards were presented to Colonel Eluyn Ginés, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Hamilton, who received the “Exemplary Service to the MILVET Community Award” and the “Soldier for Life Award” was presented to New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.

Col. Ginés has received numerous awards for service, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (1OLC), Meritorious Service Medal (4 OLC), and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, among others. Mr. Cassano is an Army veteran from the Vietnam War era. He is responsible for the second largest fire department in the world (after Tokyo) with over 14,000 personnel and a $1.6 billion budget. He was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to rebuild the department after the Sept. 11 attacks and losses of brave firefighters. In recognition of his service to the city of New York, he received the 1911 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Christopher Page, CEO of the Army Week Association and a U.S. Army veteran, said, “Army Week New York is part of a week-long series of events to celebrate and give thanks to those who have volunteered to support and defend our Constitution, as well as their families. We’re pleased to have legendary performer Anthony Kearns join us for an evening of gratitude.”

The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes sponsored Mr. Kearns‘ appearance at the event. David Walker, CEO of the Coalition, said, “There is no greater force in peace or in war than the United States Army. We wish them ‘Happy Birthday’ on their 239th.”

He added, “We were excited to once again partner with internationally-acclaimed tenor Anthony Kearns in honoring Gen. Odierno and the U.S. Army. We are particularly pleased that our own Sgt. Mary Herrera introduced him to kick off Army Week. Together with Anthony and Sgt. Herrera, we are proud to join the salute to the Army and Gen. Odierno.”

Sgt. Herrera, now a staff member of the Coalition, received a purple heart in recognition of her heroism during an attack in Iraq in which she was wounded and lost an arm. The Washington Times recognized the Gala by publishing Sgt.  Herrera’s Op-Ed (June 12, 2014) about the serious challenges facing female veterans, who are experiencing combat for the first time.

Other sponsors of the gala were J. P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, and Dunn and Bradstreet among others. Kirsten Fedewa & Associates assisted the host with fundraising and publicity.

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