LATHAM, New York – A 60-year old retired Army sergeant major who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and served in Afghanistan, a 22-year old Airman who graduated from Brazil's tough jungle warfare school, and a new 18-year old Army Guard recruit represented the past and future of the National Guard during a cake-cutting ceremony Dec. 14 at New York National Guard headquarters.
Sgt. Maj. Chris Glorius, Senior Airman Caleb Lapinel, and Pvt. Malachy McGarry joined Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, to recognize the 384th birthday of the National Guard during the brief ceremony.
The National Guard claims Dec. 13, 1636 – the date the Massachusetts Bay Colony formally established its militia – as the birthday of the Guard – the oldest component of the United States military.
Normally, the ceremony is an all-hands-on-deck affair, with 300 people attending to hear the adjutant general speak to the headquarters staff and share relaxed time during the holidays.
This year, the traditional cake-cutting event was attended by key leaders and recorded on video to be posted online.
"Like all traditions, we try to maintain them, and even in this time of COVID and restrictions, we try to do it and keep everybody safe," Shields explained.
Traditionally, the oldest Soldier or Airman present joins the youngest in cutting the cake. The older member represents the traditions and history of the National Guard, while the young service member represents the future of the National Guard.
McGarry, who joined the 1427th Transportation Company as a mechanic in October and heads to basic training in February, said he was honored to be part of the tradition as the youngest cake-cutter.
"It is an important day," said the student at the State University of New York, Brockport. "I am proud to be part of it."
Glorius, who retired from the New York Army National Guard in August, said that being part of the National Guard birthday event was a great way to mark the end of a career that began when he enlisted in 1982 with the 107th Infantry Regiment.
"It marks the culmination of my 38 years of service," the Putnam Valley resident said. "I was honored to be part of it."
Glorius served in a number of signal and logistics units during his career. He was one of the thousands of New York National Guard Soldiers who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, and also served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012.
Along the way he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Afghan Campaign Ribbon. On Dec. 14, he was awarded the New York State Conspicuous Service Medal to mark a long career of service.
"There are always challenges that come to you along the way and you learn to adapt and overcome," he said. "It has been very rewarding to me, being a Citizen-Soldier."
While Lapinel wasn't the youngest service member present, he was included because the New York National Guard leadership wanted to recognize his accomplishment in graduating in November from Brazil's Jungle Warfare Training Center's International Course.
The birthday cake was decorated in a jungle theme to honor Lapinel's accomplishment, Shields said. Lapinel also received a trophy from the commander of the New York Air National Guard.
Being part of the birthday ceremony "felt very special," Lapinel said. "It really brings home how meaningful this is and how lucky I was to be given this opportunity."
While Massachusetts claims the honor of marking the country's birth of the National Guard, New York boasts significant milestones in National Guard history.
In New York, the first Citizen-Soldiers were members of the Burgher Guard, organized by the Dutch East Indian Company in 1640 to help protect New Amsterdam from their English neighbors in Massachusetts and Virginia or from hostile natives.
After New Amsterdam became the English colony of New York in 1665, a militia modeled on the system used in Massachusetts and other English colonies was put in place.
Citizen-Soldiers of the militia and National Guard have fought in all of America's wars, from King Philip's War against Native Americans in the New England Colonies in 1675 to Afghanistan today.
New York gave the country the term National Guard for its militia forces when the 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment of the New York Militia was renamed the National Guard to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War, during a visit in 1824.
Lafayette had commanded a force called the "Guard de National" in the early days of the French Revolution. In English, that translates to National Guard.
New York officially changed the name of the New York Militia to the New York National Guard in 1863, the first in the nation to do so.
The oldest Air National Guard unit in the nation is part of the New York Air National Guard. The 102nd Rescue Squadron of the 106th Rescue Wing traces its history to the 1st Aero Company, organized in the New York National Guard in 1908 as a balloon unit.
In 1916, the 1st Aero Company conducted one of the first long-distance airplane formation flights in American history.
New York units in World War I added to the history of the National Guard. The band of the New York National Guard's 369th Infantry Regiment, an African American unit originally formed as the 15th New York, is credited with introducing jazz music to Europe during World War I. The 369th became known as the Harlem Hell Fighters.
The New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division was given its nickname "The Rainbow Division" during World War I by General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur, then a colonel, was charged with organizing a division of National Guard troops from across the country to deploy to France in 1917. He described the division as stretching across the country "like a rainbow."
New York's 69th Infantry, which distinguished itself during the Civil War, was portrayed in the 1940 movie "The Fighting 69th," starring Jimmy Cagney and Pat O'Brien. The movie was based on the historic unit's service in World War I.
Contributions continued in World War II. Soldiers of the New York National Guard's 105th Infantry Regiment faced the largest Japanese "Banzai" attack of World War II on July 7, 1944, on the island of Saipan.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry had 650 men killed and wounded but killed more than 4,300 Japanese soldiers. Three regimental Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor posthumously in that battle.
The New York Air National Guard's 138th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, based at Syracuse, was one of two Air National Guard units assigned to provide aircraft for the defense of the United States on March 1, 1953. Today the unit operates the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft.
In 2005 the New York National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division served in Iraq and was the first National Guard division headquarters to deploy to a combat zone since the Korean War in 1953. The division headquarters commanded both active Army and National Guard brigades.
There are 10,000 members of the New York Army National Guard and 5,800 members of the New York Air National Guard.
Almost 1,700 NYNG Soldiers and Airmen are currently on duty responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NYNG is participating in a Pentagon pilot program to provide a vaccine to military personnel.