LATHAM, NY (12/14/2017) New York Army National Guard Specialist Jade Richards, a Watervliet resident, was one of two New York National Guard members selected to participate in a celebration of the National Guard's 381st Birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at New York National Guard Headquarters here.
Traditionally a young Soldier and oldest Soldier present join the presiding officer in cutting the National Guard birthday cake during commemorative ceremonies.
The old Soldier represents the history and traditions of the National Guard, while the young Soldier represents the future.
Richards, age 19, joined Major General Ray Shields, a Saratoga Springs resident, and New York Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Michael Blake, who is 58, in cutting the birthday cake at an event attended by 200 people.
"This ceremony is a great way to remember the history of the National Guard and to mark the sacrifices that have been made during that history," Shields explained.
Richards, enlisted in 2015. She is assigned to the signal company of the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters in Troy as a signal support specialist.
She works as a full-time military technician in the New York National Guard's logistics director.
"It's a real honor representing the lower enlisted, "Richards said.
She's enjoyed her National Guard service and is looking forward to more, "Richards said.
The National Guard traces its official foundation back to Dec. 13, 1636 when General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law establishing formal militia companies in the colony. These companies were made up of all adult males older than 16 and were expected to meet and train in military skills regularly.
The New York National Guard can trace its history back to 1640 when the Dutch East Indian Company, which then controlled what would become New York, created a force of citizen soldiers known as the Burgher Guard, or citizen's guard.
The members of the Burgher Guard were expected to assist the regular Soldiers employed by the East Indian Company to defend New Amsterdam from hostile natives or the English who were settling in Massachusetts and Virginia.
Members of the Burgher Guard were expected to maintain a firelock musket and report to the fort at the tip of Manhattan Island if a cannon sounded. They could also be fined for speaking badly about a fellow militia member.
After New Amsterdam became the English colony of New York in 1665, a militia modeled on the system used in Massachusetts and other English colonies was put in place.
New York gave the country the term National Guard for its militia forces when the 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment of the New York Militia renamed themselves the National Guard to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War.
Lafayette had commanded a force of French citizen soldiers called "Guard de National" in the early days of the French Revolution.
He was visiting Manhattan in 1824 and the name change was made for the day to honor the hero.
During the Civil War, New York officially changed the name of the New York State Militia to the New York National Guard.
Today there are 10,300 members of the New York Army National Guard and 5,800 Airmen in the New York Air National Guard.
As part of the ceremony shields congratulated four new Army National Guard recruits on their enlistment and presented them with a coin.
"These young men and women, and all of our Soldiers and Airmen and civilians are the most valuable resource we have in the National Guard," Shields said.