The men and women in uniform had something to celebrate yesterday — not a military victory, but a birthday.
The UNC Air Force ROTC branch held a ceremony Tuesday celebrating the 65th birthday of the U.S. Air Force.
The party, at the on-campus Naval Armory, coincided with their annual dining-in, which is an event to honor military victories and achievements.
“I always wanted to be in the Air Force and a part of something that is meaningful, and being in the ROTC is just my next step to getting there,” said cadet Lauren Christian.
The ceremony began with the posting of the colors, general toasts and a tribute in memory of prisoners of war.
About 55 members of UNC’s ROTC attended the celebration in their designated uniforms.
The freshmen members wore birthday hats, balloons decorated each table, and a “Happy Birthday” banner hung from the far wall.
Christian and her fellow cadet Bill Collette sat at the back of the room and performed a comedic dialogue throughout the dinner as vices with cadet Col. Jason Pennington, who acted as president of the ceremony.
Rather than a birthday punch bowl, members drank from a traditional “grog bowl” containing a mixture of strange ingredients such as pickle juice, orange sherbet and marinara sauce.
Col. Steven Pennington, Jason Pennington’s father, was the guest speaker in attendance.
“This is a superb event,” Steven Pennington said, adding that this type of event builds unit cohesion.
Pennington, who is now retired from the Air Force, gave many encouraging words telling members of UNC’s ROTC to find what they are passionate about and pursue it.
He also encouraged them to find balance and to honor the traditions of their joint force brothers.
Steven Pennington and Christian — the oldest member and the youngest cadet, respectively, at the dinner — cut the cake together to celebrate the birthday.
Mission Support Group Commander John Blackmar, a senior, said military dining ceremonies have been a tradition for centuries.
“The respect that comes with the job is something I really enjoy,” Blackmar said.
“I always wanted to serve, and then I came to Carolina and I saw it as a great avenue for success,” he said.
The ceremony ended with the playing of the Air Force Song and the retiring of the colors.
Collette said he is proud to be a part of something bigger than himself and maintain a level of excellence.
“All while wearing birthday hats,” he said.
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