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Ft. Drum… The beating heart of Watertown

We didn’t know what to expect when we left Washington, DC and headed for our first destination. We were still reeling from all the road rally kick-off festivities. We were handed the envelope with the category we would be responsible for. Most Patriotic! We were overwhelmed. Such an important category, we wondered how we would ever be able to capture it. Well, we would have 10 hours to ponder it as we headed to the North Country and Watertown, NY, our first stop on the Best of the Road Rally!

Dancing at the Army Birthday Ball

The Army's 237th Birthday Ball Ft. Drum

 

 

 

As we headed up highway 81 through Pennsylvania and into New York we exchanged several phone calls with Mary & Peter our hosts in Watertown. Like us, they had just learned we were coming. They were really eager for us to get to Ft. Drum, Home of the 10th Mountain Division in time for the Army’s 237th Birthday Ball!  A Military Ball, OMG! We had no formal clothes and we had barely brushed our hair. The traffic was slow, a combination of Friday night rush hour and road construction, at times we barely crept along. We kept on going and finally, just after sun down we arrived in Watertown a tad disheveled. They said they didn’t care, it wasn’t important how we looked it was just important we came! After a quick change at the gas pump (oh yes we did) we arrived at the gate to Ft. Drum. With a police escort (we can now check that off our Bucket List) we arrived at the ball. We were greeted by General Mark Milley who whisked us into the ceremony with 400+ of our new (very well dressed) friends. Please note: they held part of the ceremony for our arrival!! They didn’t want us to miss it … Can you imagine?

The flag ceremony was beautiful, steeped in history. We were so glad we made it in time and so grateful that our hosts waited for us to arrive. No small feat keeping 400 people amused while waiting on two crumpled midlife road trippers!

We were introduced to Vice Chief of Staff, General Lloyd J. Austin III.  We learned that General Austin is the 2nd highest ranking officer in the ENTIRE Army! (cue the sweat)

Vice Chief of Staff  Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III

Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III

Ft. Drum Commander, Major General Mark A. Milley

Ft. Drum Commander, Major General Mark A. Milley

 

We spent a good deal of time on and off Ft. Drum with it’s Commander, Major General Mark A. Milley.  Smart, charming and a big heart, there is no doubt General Milley loves his country AND his community.

And then, there’s Mike.  Retired Col. Michael Plummer embodies all that is Ft. Drum and Watertown.

Retired Col. Michael Plummer

Retired Col. Michael Plummer

He went there as military to serve his country and retired there to serve his family and community. In 1992 it was Mike who spearheaded the Adopt a Platoon program, where local organizations such as schools, churches and community groups send letters and care packages to deployed troops. Mike’s award winning Adopt a Platoon initiative, has become a model for other groups nationwide, and service members from all branches of the service are now sponsored by local communities.

 

 Fort Drum’s Value Statement sums it up best

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage