Missouri National Guard celebrated seventh annual birthday ball
By Senior Airman Patrick P. Evenson, 139th Airlift Wing
/ Published January 07, 2016
Jefferson City, Mo. -- More than 600 Soldiers, Airmen, family and friends participated in the nation's largest National Guard birthday celebration during the Missouri National Guard's seventh annual birthday ball at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach on Dec. 12, 2015.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, and his wife, Katie, hosted the event honoring 379 years of National Guard history, which included a presentation from the executive director of the Missouri National Guard Association, Dr. Joel Denney about a group trip to Normandy Beach earlier this year.
"You can't visit the 9,376 people who are buried there, without thinking about the sacrifice," Denney said.
The inaugural battlefield tour was part of a plan to benefit the National Guard Educational Foundation. A $500 contribution was made to the foundation in the name of each participant with the goal that the memories of those sacrifices are passed to this generation's youth.
The need to remember the heritage and legacy of those who have worn the uniform prompted Danner to start a celebration of the National Guard birthday when he took command in 2009.
During his address Danner expressed his pride in the work of the Missouri National Guard, "Missouri continues to move forward not only in our personnel readiness, not only in our training readiness, not only in our facilities, but also in our capabilities and what we have been asked to do."
This month marked the anniversary of the opening of the Museum of the Missouri Military History. Since it opened in last December, it has become the third most visited site in Jefferson City.
Danner also touched on the great work that the new Family Resiliency Center has done since it opened in July. The center offers Guardsmen and their families resources for family, mental and physical health, and spiritual issues.
For many attendees, the birthday ball is a yearly reminder of commitment and camaraderie.
"It brings the National Guard together as one unit, both Army and Air," said Command Chief Master Sergeant Randy Miller of the 139th Airlift Wing. "I feel it's important to come back each year to celebrate because of the heritage and legacy that the generations before have left."
Capt. McClellan Gaono with the 7th Civil Support Team, said the celebration allows the opportunity for both enlisted and officers get out and meet other Guard members throughout the state.
"You don't often get that chance to see others from around the state," said Gaono.
Gaono was unable to attend the birthday ball in 2013 because he was on a deployment.
"One of the prayers that I often say is, 'bless and protect those Soldiers who aren't able to be in the states right now celebrating with us," Gaono says. "You don't know how it feels not to be part of a function until you are not there."
The 135th Army Band's musical performance team, Fire for Effect, provided entertainment for the evening.
In his closing remarks, Danner thanked everyone for their hard work and conveyed his pride in the members of the National Guard.
"I have never served with a finer team of individuals both personally and professionally," said Danner. "It's my honor to serve with each and every one of you in this great organization."
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog; www.pinterest.com/monationalguard/