Army birthday celebration|[06/15/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 15, 2007

‘How proud I am to have served’

To celebrate the U.S. Army’s 232nd birthday Thursday, an 89-year-old World War II veteran and a new private cut the Army’s birthday cake together.

The U.S. Army was formed by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, making the Army a little more than a year older than the country it has served.

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Mayor Laurence Leyens, friends and family joined Army personnel to celebrate both the birthday and Flag Day at Pemberton Square mall.

S.T. Barnes, 89, was a staff sergeant in the Army Air Force during World War II. He served for 32 months in the European theater and the China-India-Burma theater. He received four Bronze Stars, one each for the North African, Tunisia, Sicilian and Italian campaigns.

New Private Summer Manley, 17, cut the cake with Barnes. Manley graduated from Briarfield Academy in Lake Providence and joined the Army &#8220to help me pay for college,” she said.

&#8220I’m not very nervous,” Manley said of the possibility of joining other soldiers overseas in Iraq.

Barnes, a member of VFW 2572 which celebrated its 75th anniversary last month, sympathizes with the troops in Iraq.

&#8220It’s not easy when you’re living in tents and digging foxholes, hearing the bombs whistle when they pass,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Barnes’ experience in the Army changed him for the better.

&#8220It’s one of the proudest things I’ve done in my life,” he said.

Barnes was discharged in June 1945, 62 years ago. He still fits into his World War II uniform and wore it to the cake-cutting Thursday. It bears the patches of the 32 months Barnes spent overseas, including a &#8220Ruptured Duck” badge indicating honorable discharge and a badge indicating his service in the China-India-Burma theater.

Barnes said the celebration reminded him of &#8220how proud I am to have served.”