Missouri National Guard Celebrated Seventh Annual Birthday Ball

More than 600 Soldiers, Airmen, family and friends celebrated at 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 this month.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, and his wife, Katie, hosted the event, which included a moving 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 9376 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 in the name of each participant to the foundation with the goal that the memories of those sacrifices are imparted into this generation’s youth.

It was that need to remember the heritage and legacy of those who have worn the uniform, which originally 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 personal 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 year saw the opening of the Museum of the Missouri Military History. Since it opened in June 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 August. 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 officer get out and meet other guard members throughout the state. “You don’t often get that chance.”

During the 2013 birthday ball, Gaono himself was deployed. “One of the prayers that I often say is, ‘bless and protect those soldiers that aren’t able to be in the States right now celebrating with us.”

“You don’t know how it feels not to be part of a function until you are not there,” Gaono says.

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 crew 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.”