Officials with the city of Lake Charles, the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission and Fort Polk joined residents, veterans and active military on Monday to celebrate the U.S. Army's 244th birthday.

Col. Lee Burnett, commander of Fort Polk's 32nd Hospital Center, said he was pleased to share the Army's birthday with Southwest Louisiana veterans.

"They've been there; they know what it's like," he said. "And for us to be able to take our young soldiers here and get them to the community and share this with them is just tremendous."

Burnett said those in the military never hesitate to help out "our brothers or sisters in arms and their families."

"I don't think you can say that about most jobs," he said. "The Army is so much more than a job. It's really a family, and it's a way of life."

Mayor Nic Hunter said the city's history with Fort Polk dates back to World War II.

"We recognize that many soldiers and their families who call Fort Polk home also call Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana home," he said.

A cake was cut with a saber, a military tradition. Hunter said the first piece was reserved for Louisiana native Irma Darphin, a nurse who volunteered for the 127th Army General Hospital Unit, the John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas, during World War II. She arrived in Europe in October 1943 and didn't return to the U.S. until 1945. Darphin also received a certificate of honor from the city.

Hunter mentioned recently wearing a tie, given to him by his father-in-law, to City Hall. However, he didn't realize it was designated for a Navy officer.

"I almost had my first scandal as mayor of Lake Charles," he joked.

Hunter, who wore an Army tie to the birthday celebration, said he got permission from Charles Dalgleish, president of the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission.

Also during the event, City Council President and Army veteran Mark Eckard read the 1775 Congressional resolution that established the Army.

Calcasieu Parish Government and Cameron Parish Reporter

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