More than 5,000 3rd Infantry Division soldiers celebrated the Army’s 239th birthday Friday with a division run and ceremonial cake-cutting near Marne Garden on Fort Stewart.
All of the division’s brigades were represented, including those units stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, whose soldiers traveled south to join their comrades for the festivities.
With dawn slowly breaking and canon fire erupting, Brig. Gen. Peter Jones called the 3rd ID to attention as the colors were raised sharply at 6:30 a.m. Jones stood in for division commander Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, who is on leave.
“It’s great to have everybody out here, but keep in mind we’ve got 300 soldiers still in harm’s way,” Jones told the sea of troops standing at attention before him. “And as you pass Warriors Walk, remember those 468 Marne soldiers who have given their lives and the Gold Star families that they represent.
“Lastly, remember that over 70 years ago — not just on D-Day, but on Anzio — this division gave its all and will continue to give its all for this nation, wherever we’re called, to do whatever they ask,” Jones continued before leading the division through the streets of Fort Stewart.
Following the four-mile run, the 3rd ID once again fell into formation, and, per Army tradition, the division’s single oldest and youngest soldiers assisted Jones and division Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin in cutting the cake.
Pfc. Reuven Miranda, 18, and Sgt. 1st Class Julio Arteaga, 58, smiled as they each put a hand on the ceremonial saber and sliced the cake in half.
“This represents the continuity that we have of those Marne soldiers who have served before us and those who will serve after us,” Jones said. “So we appreciate them joining the sergeant major and I in cutting this great cake.”
Miranda, a multichannel transmission systems operator, arrived at Fort Stewart in February, the same month he turned 18.
“I was expecting a little more nervousness, but I was actually quite calm,” Miranda said of standing beside the division’s senior leaders. “CSM Gilpin is really nice.”
An Augusta native, Miranda plans to apply for the Green to Gold program, which provides a pathway for enlisted soldiers to become commissioned officers.
Arteaga has served 30 years in the Army and looks forward to retiring in four months.
“I am so happy to retire, but I’m going to miss this place,” he said.
Arteaga has been at Fort Stewart for two years, though he previously was stationed at the post from 2004-07.
A financial-management technician, Arteaga has deployed numerous times in support of combat missions and peace-keeping operations, including stints in Panama, Bosnia and Iraq.
“I didn’t want to leave — they forced me. They said, ‘Hey, you did your part. You deployed so many times, it’s time for you to retire,’” he said with a smile.
Arteaga spoke about his post-retirement plans.
“Next is just rest, take a big vacation – go to Cancun, Hawaii or Rio de Janeiro.”
The Army’s birthday is June 14, though the Marne division celebrated Friday.