Military officials celebrate Army’s 244th birthday
LATHAM, N.Y. >> Officials with the New York National Guard recently came together to celebrate the Army’s 244th birthday.
A young New York Army National Guard soldier from Schuylerville, and a veteran non-commissioned officer from Rensselaer joined Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York, in marking the Army’s 244th birthday at the New York National Guard headquarters in Latham, on Friday, June 14.
Private 1st Class Amanda Coleman, 19, a member of the 206th Military Police Company from Schuylerville, and Sgt. 1st Class Frank DeThomasis, 59, a Rensselaer resident assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters helped Shields cut the Army birthday cake during a short ceremony last week.
The date marks the day in 1775 on which the Continental Congress took charge of colonial troops besieging the British Army in Boston and created an American Army.
Traditionally, officials noted how the youngest soldier present joins the oldest soldier present in cutting the Army birthday cake. The young soldier symbolizes the future of the Army while the old soldier symbolizes the Army’s history and past, according to a news release.
The New York Army National Guard is one of three components of the Army alongside the Active Army and the Army Reserve.
In his remarks, Shields thanked both DeThomasis and Coleman for their service and presented them with coins in appreciation.
DeThomasis enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in November 1980. A co-worker of his was in the Army National Guard and convinced him to enlist.
“He managed to talk my ear off to the point where I finally said, ‘Okay… I’ll sign up,’” DeThomasis recalled.
He spent the majority of his time in the Army National Guard serving in tank units, DeThomasis said, first in the 1st Battalion, 210th Armor and then in the 1st Battalion, 101st Cavalry.
“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “During that time I was also offered several different positions which would eventually lead to promotions, but I refused them, perhaps a bit foolishly, because I really enjoyed what I was doing.”
“Fulfillment meant more to me than the rank,” he said.
The highlight of his Army career was when he deployed to Iraq in 20042005 as a platoon sergeant in Delta Company, 101st Cavalry, which deployed to Baghdad with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, DeThomasis said.
DeThomasis also served as acting First Sergeant for a company in Task Force Wingfoot in New York City in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The New York National Guard built a long-term security force around the 1st Battalion, 101st Cavalry for three months of duty during the recovery process.
He was proud to be asked to represent the Army’s history in the birthday ceremony, DeThomasis said.
“I guess it came full circle; the old guy brings in the new kid,” he said.”I’m very happy to do it, and it’s very appropriate in my case.”
His advice for Coleman and other young soldiers is to do the best job you can and enjoy your job.
“Chasing stripes and rockers are important, as long as you can do it with some intestinal fortitude and passion,” DeThomasis said.
Coleman, a college student at Adirondack Community College in Queensbury, N.Y., joined the New York Army National Guard in 2018.
She joined the Army because her brother joined and she had always looked up to her brother. She decided to become a Military Police Soldier because she had once wanted to be a New York State Trooper, Coleman said.
“It made sense to correlate the two,” she said.
Her most memorable Army experience has been the people she’s met in the 206th Military Police Company, Coleman said.
“They’ve taught me a lot so far,” Coleman said. “I just want to learn and every day we grow at drill.”
U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Capt. Jean Marie Kratzer Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York ( center) cuts the Army Birthday cake with New York Army National Guard PFC Amanda Coleman and Sgt. First Class Frank DeThomasis during an Army Birthday ceremony held at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham, N.Y. on June 14, 2019. DeThomasis, the oldest soldier present at age 59,and Coleman the youngest at age 19, joined Shields in cutting the Army birthday cake. Shields is wearing the new Army Green uniform due to be introduced starting in 2020.