More than 200 guests joined in the time honored naval tradition of celebrating the Navy’s Birthday. The annual U.S. Navy Birthday Ball was hosted by the Navy League of the United States Colorado Springs Council on October 10, 2015. This Rocky Mountain Region gala was held at the elegant Antlers Hilton in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. In addition to marking the 240th birthday of the Navy, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy Reserve was honored with the theme of “Ready Then. Ready Now. Ready Always.”
The semi-formal evening kicked off with a lively hour of socializing. Guests had the opportunity to greet friends and learn about the fleet’s newest fast attack submarine that is the state’s namesake, USS Colorado (SSN- 788). Information and mementos of the boat were available for the party goers. A focal point was a lighted ice sculpture of a ship’s anchor. The Widefield High School NJROTC Honor Guard presented the colors.
ADM Bill Gortney, Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, was the guest speaker. His remarks to the audience centered upon the integration of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve. He thanked those in attendance for their service to the nation and recognized the youngest personnel present for their devotion to duty.
Following the remembrance of missing and departed comrades in arms, champagne toasts were made to the Commander in Chief and the services. Then guests enjoyed the ceremonial cutting of the Navy birthday cake. At the age of 102, LT James “Jim” Downing, USN (Ret), was honored as the most senior Navy serviceman present. He is one of the oldest known survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and is a Colorado Springs Council member. At age 18, Hospitalman Apprentice VanEsselstine was the youngest sailor at the celebration and enlisted in 2015. With ADM Gortney and CAPT Bethke cheering them on, LT Downing and HA VanEsselstine cut the birthday cake with the Navy sword.
The planning and execution of the annual U.S. Navy Birthday Ball is a collaboration between the Navy League of the United States Colorado Springs Council and many organizations. The Mile High Tailhook Association, the Rocky Mountain Navy CPO and PO Associations, active duty personnel representing local Navy elements and commands, the USS Colorado (SSN-788) Commissioning Committee, and businesses including O’Donnell & O’Donnell, Copy Experts, Dream Quest Photography, and Colorado’s Morning News on 850KOA are commended for their contributions to this special celebration. Next year’s Navy Ball is planned for October 15th, 2016.