In celebration of the U.S. Army’s 237th Birthday on June 14, Soldiers and Family members from the Fort Bragg and surrounding communities are participating with events such as a birthday run, cake competitions, flag handouts, as well as a poster and essay contest.

Out of hundreds of school children, two students, one from Shughart Elementary School and the other from Albritton Middle School, won first place in the Army Birthday poster and essay contest.

Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg Garrison commander, presented both Jonnel Oliveros, a fourth-grader from Shughart Elementary, and Susan Sharp, a sixth-grader from Albritton Middle, with first place certificates as well as a coin of excellence June 6 at their respective schools.

“The 237th Army Birthday is another milestone of an enduring nature of our institution, which is one of the most respected institution in America,” said Sicinski,”It’s celebrating excellence and for our future.”

In front of a self-made memorial at Shughart Elementary School, Sicinski first presented an award to Oliveros for his winning poster. In attendance was his father, Staff Sgt. Daniel G. Healey, a pre-ranger course supply sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, and his mother, Jennifer Aquino.

“I’ve always thought Jonnel or J.B., his nickname at home, has always been excellent when it comes to drawing,” said Healey.

Sicinski then presented an award to Sharp for her essay in front of her sixth-grade class and teacher.

“Susan, well done, thank you and congratulations,” Sicinski said, “I also have something personal and special for you that I don’t give out too often, an army coin for excellence. You inspired me. Thank you for giving me that extra motivation that I need every now and then.”

As the class applauded for Sharp, Vanessa Tambula, her mother, hugged her child proudly for all the great work she did.

“It felt great,” said Tambula, “This was a complete surprise because I found out yesterday when the principal told me. She did it all on her own; she’s pretty awesome.”

“I was really surprised because I didn’t think I would win it,” said Sharp. “Our teacher sort of pushed us to do it, but I’m glad I did. My dad is in the Army and it’s really important because they sacrifice so much for us and continue to stay strong.”

Sicinski thanked the children for helping celebrate the Army’s birthday before ensuring both classes that today’s Army is stronger than ever.

“It is without a doubt that today’s Army is a more lethal and effective organization then what it was when I first joined,” said Sicinski. “It’s telling that the Soldiers today are motivated in all the right reasons to serve.”

Sicinski also discussed the importance of Family members being involved with their Soldier not only on-duty, but also at home.

Sicinski concluded talking with the students with three simple words, “Happy Birthday Army!”